Protect Your Pooch from Heatstroke
Your pets are just as vulnerable to heat exhaustion and heat stroke as their humans. You sweat to keep yourself from overheating. Here’s how to be sure your four-legged friends keep their cool too.
How Your Pets Sweat
Dogs and other pets don’t sweat through their skin and fur. Their sweat glands are located in their foot pads.
- They cool themselves through their paws, but these few sweat glands are not significant enough to regulate their body temperature alone.
- Their primary method of cooling is by panting rapidly through their noses and mouths. So be sure you don’t muzzle your dog! They need to freely pant.
Protect Their Paws
Prevent foot pads from severe burns:
- Avoid walking your dog on dangerously hot surfaces (sand, concrete, or asphalt).
- Artificial (synthetic) turf can get very hot too!
- Opt for cool grass or shady areas.
- Test walking surfaces by placing your hand or bare foot on it for 10 seconds.
Warning Signs of Overheating
Fortunately, it’s not very difficult to see signs of overheating in dogs. Watch for the subtle, early signs of heat stroke.
- Excessive panting
- Less responsive to usual commands
- May wander away instead of turning to respond when you call his name
Signs of Heat Exhaustion/Heat Stroke
A dangerously overheated dog may exhibit the following signs:
- Collapsing or convulsions
- Vomiting (sometimes with blood)
- Red or pale gums
- Bright red tongue
- Glazed eyes
- Rapid heart rate
- Lack of coordination (wobbly or drunken gait)
- Fever (usually 103 and 106 degrees Fahrenheit and higher)
- Loss of consciousness (cannot be awakened)
- Small amounts of or no urine
*Heat stroke can progress to organ failure, seizures, coma, cardiac arrest, and death.
Risk Factors for Overheating
- Age extremes (very young or very old)
- Obese and deconditioned
- Underlying heart/lung disease
- Long or thick hair coat
- Insufficient water intake, restricted access to water
How to Avoid Heat Exhaustion
- Limit exercise or outdoor activity on very hot or humid days.
- Provide plenty of access to shade and water (e.g., swimming, playing in sprinklers)
- NEVER leave your pet in a parked car—not even in the shade with the windows rolled down. When temperatures are in the 70’s (mildly warm), the inside of a parked car can reach 120 degrees in minutes!
- Use a cooling body wrap or vest to help keep him cool without getting him wet.
- Get a “summer cut” (a short haircut) during the hot months. Just be sure you leave enough fur to protect his skin from the sun.)
- Walk your dog early in the morning or in the evening when it is cooler. (Be sure the sidewalk is not still hot.)
- On walks, keep water with you, take water and shade breaks, and be sure not to overdo it.
First Aid: What to Do if Your Dog Is Overheated
- Immediately move your dog where it is cooler (e.g., in an air conditioned room or in the shade with a fan).
- Place your cool wet cloths on his neck, armpits, and between his hind legs,
- Gently wet his ears and paw pads with cool water.
- Give him cool, fresh water. Don’t force him to drink (it can end up in his lungs).
- Wet his tongue with water if he can’t/won’t drink or can’t keep water down. Don’t feed him ice cubes as it can cause his temperature to drop too quickly and result in shock.
- Get him to the vet.
- Freeze water in plastic bottles, or place ice in resealable plastic bags and wrap them in a towel or tube sock, then let your pet lay on them.
- Set up a mister to keep them cool outside.
Karen’s Fit Tip: Just like for humans, be cognizant of your pet’s environment, don’t let them stay in the heat for long periods (that includes the car), take plenty of breaks, and be sure they drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.