Dog Heat Stroke Prevention and Treatment


Dog Walking in Georgetown DC

It sure is getting hot out there!

Dogs are much more susceptible to the heat than humans are. Human's are covered in sweat glands which cools your entire body. Dog's only have their mouths, and even though some of their mouths are pretty big, they don’t have nearly the surface area for cooling down that humans do. Plus, most dogs are covered in fur!

Dogs' ancestors, the mighty wolf, became a dominate species when most of the world was covered in ice. So a dog's body is designed to stay warm in the cold, not to stay cool in the heat. As a result, every year many dogs become ill or even die due to overheating.

Here at Pant & Wag we take significant precautions to guard against heatstroke, and so should you. Here are some tips. When in doubt you should always contact your vet.

  • Ensure dogs have constant access to fresh and cool/cold water (most of us love ice cubes in our water!)
  • Choose shady paths on natural surfaces (dirt, grass) for your dog walks whenever possible
  • Avoid asphalt and concrete as much as possible
  • Be especially careful with short-nosed dogs like pugs and bulldogs as their short snout makes it very difficult for them to cool their bodies by panting
  • Consider a summer hair cut for your dog, and/or use a Furminator to thin out the undercoat (but always leave about one inch of fur to protect from sunburn)
  • At home, make sure your dog has access to a cool hard floor after exercise
    • In addition to panting, dog's cool themselves through convection, which basically means they lay down on something cool to lower their body temperature
  • Keep your home air conditioner set at 78 degrees or cooler. The colder, the better, especially after exercise. If you have a programmable thermostat, have the A/C come on around the time your dog normally gets back from exercising, and stay on for at least an hour
  • NEVER leave a dog in a unattended car without the car running and the air conditioner on
    • If your car is parked in the sun, start it and crank up the A/C, and then let your dog in after a few minutes

Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs:

  • Anxious Expression
  • Collapse
  • High Fever (104 or higher)
  • Loud Panting
  • Warm, dry skin
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Refusal to obey commands
  • Staggering
  • Staring
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Bright red gums and tongue
  • Standing 4-square, posting or spreading out in an attempt to maintain balance
  • White or blue gums
  • Lethargy, unwillingness to move
  • Uncontrollable urination or defecation

If your dog exhibits symptoms of heatstroke, you should immediately call your vet and try to cool him down:

  • Get him in a cool, ventilated location
  • Apply ice packs to the groin area and head
  • Hose him down with water
  • Allow the dog to lick ice chips or drink a small amount of water (don’t force him to drink as he might not be able to swallow and could choke on the water)
  • Offer Pedialyte to help restore electrolytes.

Here's to a safe and fun Summer! Please let us know if you have any questions.

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