Summer is in full swing and we are currently experiencing a heat wave. Dogs are particularly susceptible to this dramatic rise in temperatures. The risk of heat stroke in dogs is very serious and should never be taken lightly. Once the effects of heat stroke begin to materialize, it is often too late for treatment and often is fatal. Knowledge is key in preventing such a tragedy from occurring. Here is some useful information and tips to help you in keeping your dog safe healthy and happy this summer.
Why are dogs susceptible to heat stroke?
Dogs don’t sweat the same way us humans do. They do have sweat glands in their paws (as well as nose) but this isn’t enough to regulate their core temperature. Our body utilizes our sweat glands to help cool us down when our core temperature is higher than it is supposed to be. Dogs don’t have this mechanism and rely mainly on panting. It’s for this reason that the Brachycephalic breeds (pugs, bulldogs, shih-tzus etc.) are at even higher risk for heat stroke. Their smushed in faces reduce efficient panting and restricts air flow. Extra care is needed for these breeds.
Mans (and womens) best friend also has a higher resting body temperature than we do. With a higher temperature to begin with, it becomes even harder in extreme hot weather to regulate and ensure their temperature stays within healthy limits. Add a thick dark coat* and you must have a plan in place to ensure your dog will stay as cool as possible and avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
How you can prevent heat stroke in dogs
Prevention is key. On very hot days, either forego walks and opt for bathroom breaks mixed with indoor play or have a plan to make sure you will be able to seek out shade and provide water for your dog. I also bring a spray bottle filled with cool water to help cool each dog down, continuously spritzing their bellies and paws to prevent their temperature from rising. I don’t completely soak them, as water attracts the sun, so I limit to these areas of their body. There are also coats designed to keep your dog cool and are a wonderful tool for preventing heat stroke.
Limit time spent outside and do not allow your dog to run and play excessively especially in the hottest hours of the day. Above all, use common sense. Strenuous exercise increases the strain on our dogs’ bodies in excessive heat. Leave the chuck-it at home and keep your walks at a slow place. Shade, water, rest.
Signs to watch out for
Keep an eye on your dog and watch for signs of over heating which may include excessive panting, glazed eyes, restlessness & changes in the color of their gums (a bright red or a blue) and can escalate to vomiting, lethargy and even seizures. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your vet immediately.
It is our duty as pet parents and care givers to keep our pets safe and healthy and protect them from all things in our control that may cause them harm. The summer months are fleeting so let’s enjoy them while we can, while ensuring the health and safety of our four-legged best friends.
While a thick dark coat obviously makes it harder to cool down, it is a misconception that shaving your dog will help him/her not overheat. Dogs’ coats are designed to thermo regulate them in both Winter & Summer temperatures. If we shave their coats, we often are interfering with this and thus leaving them more susceptible to heat stroke.