Dogs love to play outside, but they don’t know how to tell us when they’re getting dangerously hot. It’s up to us to be proactive in keeping them comfortable and safe.
Get to know how heat stroke affects dogs and what you can do to prevent it:
What IS Heat Stroke, Anyway?
Your dog’s core body temperature is normally 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. When it’s cold out, your dog’s body maintains this temperature by shivering to generate heat. When it’s hot, your dog cools off by panting and sweating through sweat glands on their paw pads. Unlike humans, they don’t have sweat glands all over their body, so it’s difficult for them to stay cool.
When it’s too hot, or your dog over-exercises, their body cannot self-regulate, or keep their core temperature at the normal level. As a result, heart rate increases blood flow to the skin to help cool the body, a process that can, within minutes, damage organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys.
Left untreated, heat stroke can cause your dog to become unconscious, and then die. That’s why it’s so important to prevent heat stroke and recognize early signs of overheating.
Watch Out for These Signs of Canine Heat Stroke
- Excessive panting. Panting is a sign that your dog is already trying to cool down. Once it becomes fast and heavy, you need to take immediate action.
- Reddened skin, tongue and gums. Red skin indicates increased blood flow.
- Dehydration. Watch out for decreased urination or inability to urinate, or thick, sticky saliva.
- Confusion. Heat stroke affects nerve cells in the brain. Your dog may stumble or otherwise seem disoriented.
- Collapse and unconsciousness. At this point, your dog may already be suffering permanent tissue damage, and may be moments from death.
- Temperature over 104 degrees. You can take your dog’s temperature rectally with a digital thermometer, though you shouldn’t waste time locating one if your dog is already showing the above symptoms. Instead, begin cooling your dog down, then take their temperature every five minutes.
If you suspect your dog is suffering from heat stroke, immediately get them out of the heat and on your way to the emergency vet. Lower their body temperature with cool, wet fabric pressed against their neck, belly and armpits. If your dog is conscious, offer small amounts of cool water.
How to Prevent Heat Stroke
The risk of heat stroke does not mean that your dog can never enjoy time outside in the sun. But you need to plan ahead to make sure they never get too hot.
Look for shady areas, and be prepared to take your dog indoors. You can also use a cooling pad, wet bandana, or a spray bottle to offer relief from the heat.
Your dog should always have access to cool water. Encourage them to drink small amounts frequently. Adding unsalted, unseasoned meat or bone broth to your dog’s water will make them more likely to drink before they’re thirsty.
Dogs tend to continue an activity past the point of exhaustion. Running and biking with your dog can be dangerous if they don’t take frequent breaks. Take your dog out in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid overheating and paw burns from hot pavement.
Never Leave Your Dog Unattended in the Car
There’s no good reason to leave your dog in your car, even for just a few minutes. It doesn’t matter if it’s not very hot outside. When the outside temperature is 70 degrees, it only takes ten minutes for the inside of your car to become a toasty 89 degrees. In a half hour, your car can be 104 degrees inside.
Your dog’s risk of overheating is even greater if they are under stress from being alone, especially if they’re pacing inside the vehicle, anxiously awaiting your return.
But… What If I Leave the Air Conditioner Running?
You cannot depend on your car’s air conditioner to keep your dog safe. Auto air conditioners will automatically shut off if the engine begins to overheat.
This very tragedy has happened to multiple police K9 teams, many of which are now investing in heat alarms that page the officer when the temperature inside their car rises to a dangerous level. Heat alarm systems cost hundreds of dollars, but they’re worth every penny if you absolutely must leave your dog in your car.
Ready Pet Go Pet Sitters Are Devoted to Keeping Maryland and DC Dogs Safe!
The professional pet sitters and dog walkers at Ready Pet Go are knowledgeable about pet care, and happy to help you keep your animals safe this summer.
Get in touch with us to learn more about our services for pet parents in Silver Spring and Takoma Park, Maryland and Washington, DC.