Summer Heat Can Be Deadly for Dogs

July 22, 2014

Most of us have the misconception that dogs tolerate the heat as well as humans. In fact, they do not. Dogs do not sweat, except to a minor degree through their foot pads, and depend upon panting to exchange warm air for cool air. But when the air temperature is close to body temperature, cooling by panting is not an efficient process.

Situations that can lead to heat stroke:

  • Being left in a car in hot weather
  • Exercising strenuously in hot, humid weather
  • Certain breeds especially a Bulldogs, Pugs, or Pekingese ( brachycephalic breeds)
  • Elderly and overweight dogs are susceptible 
  • Suffering from a heart or lung disease that interferes with efficient breathing
  • Suffering from a high fever or seizures
  • Being confined on concrete or asphalt surfaces
  • Being confined without shade and fresh water in hot weather
  • Having a history of heat stroke

Symptoms of heat strok e:

  • Unusual breathing - rapid and loud
  • High rectal temperature 
  • Extreme thirst
  • Weakness and/or fatigue
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Disorientation
  • A bright red tongue and pale gums
  • Skin around muzzle or neck doesn't snap back when pinched
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Collapse or coma
  • Thick saliva
  • Increased heart rate.

Treatment for heat stroke:

  • Immediately take them to a shady spot or into a cool indoors room. Removing the heat source is an important immediate response. If possible, take them into a building such as a room with air conditioning. 
  • Cool the dog down. Depending on what you have available to you, do your best to cool down your dog quickly. Some possible ways to approach this include:
    • Much of a dog's heat is lost through the bottom of their feet. Applying rubbing alcohol to the bottoms of their feet is effective.
    • Pour cool water water over the dog's head and body.
    • Put wet towels over your dog. 
    • Hose them using a very gentle stream of water, preferably a dribble or light spray (do not use it at full strength).
    • If possible, submerge your dog in a bathtub of cool (not cold) water.
    • Never use ice water or ice––this will close the skin pores, shrink the skin's surface vessels. It can lead to shock or even cause hypothermia.
  • Fan the dog and spread their fur open using your fingers.  Fur acts as an insulating blanket trapping heat, so opening it up and exposing the skin underneath to air can help the dog to cool down faster.
  • When your dog becomes more alert give them a small quantity of water or paediatric electrolyte to drink, repeating as often as they want to drink it.
  • Contact an veterinary clinic. As soon as your dog's temperature is at an normal level, bring the dog to an vet clinic. Even if the dog does not appear to have residual symptoms, there may be internal damage. It's best to have a check-up to be reassured of your dog's return to full health.
  • Many of us love taking our dogs with us in the summer months on outings to picnics, ball games, pool parties and the beach. Be aware of how quickly they can dehydrate, causing heat stroke. 
  • Leave them at home. These outings can be deadly!