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  • Ashley C., CVT

Surviving the Sizzle: Understanding and Preventing Heat Stroke in Dogs

The dog days of summer are way more fun with your dog. That said, dogs can overheat, and it’s important not to play too long in hotter temperatures. If your dog gets too hot, they might suffer from heat exhaustion, or even worse, a deadly heat stroke. Make sure you know the symptoms of overheating, and keep in mind that your dog loves the air conditioning even more than you do.

Causes of Heat Stroke in Dogs

Dogs don’t sweat, and panting is their only mechanism for cooling down. Heat stroke happens when their panting can’t keep up, and their body temperature rises above 39°F. Playing fetch on a hot day can be enough to cause a heat stroke. Especially for older and less active dogs, simply running, playing, or even walking in the heat can lead to overheating.

Most pet owners know you shouldn’t leave your dog in the car. But anywhere that does not have an adequate airflow can cause your dog to get dangerously overheated. Fans and open windows are essential to keep your dog comfortable.

Dog Breeds at Higher Risk for Heat Stroke

Flat faced breeds like Boston Terriers, Boxers, Lhasa apsos, Pugs, and Shih tzus are more likely to suffer from heat stroke. Their short noses make it harder for them to get enough air to cool themselves down. If it’s hot out, these brachycephalic breeds should only be outside for 10 to 15 minutes.

Preventing Heat Stroke

There are a few easy steps you can take to keep your dog safe in the summer months:

  1. Make sure your dog has plenty of water at all times. Bring some with you and make sure to fill up your pup’s water dish whenever you stop to fill up your own water bottle.

  2. Don’t leave your dog in the car, even with the windows rolled down. The temperature inside the car gets much hotter than the outside in just a few minutes. Even if it’s just 70°F, inside the car can quickly reach 115°F.

  3. Don’t go for walks, runs, or hikes during the hottest part of the day. Plan your walks early in the morning or for the sunset.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

Look out for the following symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Heavy panting over a long period of time.

  • Lots of drooling.

  • Red tongue and gums.

  • Weakness and wobbly, unsteady walking

  • Vomiting and diarrhea.

  • In severe cases, collapse.

What to do if Your Dog Overheats

Try to lower their body temperature slowly. Give them cool, not cold water. Cold water could send them into shock. Pour cool water over their neck and chest. Do not place wet towels over their body, as their body temperature rises, the towels will trap the heat. Place them in a room with lots of cool air circulation. Always call your vet for further recommendations.

If you have any questions about preparing for a fun-filled sunny summer with your pup, our team is here for you 24/7!


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