As summer approaches and temperature rises, heat exhaustion and heat stroke become very real dangers to our pets. Dogs don’t sweat, and can only cool themselves off through panting. Dogs only have a few sweat glands in their paws, which in the grand scheme of things does very little to regulate their body temperature. Here in Tampa, the temps are already rising over 90 regularly, and we want to be sure to keep our buddies safe while enjoying the great outdoors.
WHAT IS IT?
Heat exhaustion (hyperthermia) and heat stroke are when your pet’s body temperature rises above a healthy range and they are unable to regulate their own body heat. A dog’s normal body temperature is between 101 and 102.5. Anything above 103 is considered abnormal. At 106 and higher, they are at danger for heat stroke. A temperature of 109 is usual fatal.
• Excessive, loud, rapid panting
• Dehydration (skin around neck doesn’t snap back when pinched)
• Excessive drooling
• Rapid heart rate
• Difficulty breathing
• Bright red or bluish gums and tongue
• Disorientation (appears drunk)
• Muscle weakening or collapse
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DOG BECOMES OVERHEATED
It may seem counterintuitive, but you don’t want to cool your dog off too quickly if they are suffering from heat exhaustion. Cooling your dog off with ice or ice water can make your dog’s blood vessels constrict, which prevents the cooling of his internal organs. Also, if they consume a large amount of water quickly as they desperately try to cool themselves off, it can lead to bloat. Here are some things you can do if you notice signs of your dog becoming overheated.
• Get them to a cooler area. Ideally get your dog into an area that is air conditioned. If this is not possible, bring him into the shade. If possible, carry the dog to the cooler area and do not make him walk.
• Do not confine the dog. Putting them into a closed crate will trap in body heat. Allow him to stretch out, ideally with a fan blowing air over him.
• Wet them with cool water. As stated above, do not use freezing water. I would even use lukewarm water with tiny dogs and puppies. Give priority to the armpits and groin area, and the extremities like paws, ears, and tail. If you are cooling off with towels, wipe the dog off but do not drape them over the dog. This can trap in their body heat.
• You can place rubbing alcohol on the dog’s paw pads. As the alcohol evaporates quickly, it helps to cool them down. Do not use too much, however, as it can be dangerous if ingested.
• Offer lukewarm or cool water to drink, small amounts at a time. If they gulp down large amounts of water quickly, it can lead to bloat.
• Call your vet immediately. Even if you’ve managed to cool your dog off and he seems to be recovering, they may need to be monitored for things like shock, dehydration, kidney failure, etc.
• When you are outside with your dog, make sure he has access to shade
• Be sure your dog has access to fresh water
• If your dog is not used to the hot weather, be sure to acclimate them properly. Just like humans, dogs need to be conditioned to tolerate a hotter climate
• Brush your dog regularly. Dogs with thick undercoats will shed them as it gets warmer. You can help remove that loose fur by brushing regularly, allowing the air to reach the skin
• DO NOT shave your dog if it has a double coat (Pomeranian, Husky, Australian Shepherd, Great Pyrenees, Shiba Inu, etc). Brushing the fur removes the dense undercoat, and the topcoat protects the skin from the sun and biting insects. Not only does the fur not grow back the same once it has been shaved, but your dog has now lost its protective topcoat against the harmful elements
• Wipe/wet down your dog’s paws, underbelly, and armpits regularly to keep them cool
• Utilize cooling gear such as a cooling vest, cooling crate pad, or reflective crate/car cover
• Try not to do too many outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day (Generally between 12:00 and 4:00)
WHO IS AT RISK?
Some dogs become overheated more easily than others:
• Dogs not conditioned to tolerate a hotter climate
• Puppies and senior dogs
• Overweight dogs
• Dogs with shorter snouts (Bulldog, Pug, Boxer, Frenchie, etc)
• Double coated dogs