Canine Heatstroke: 7 Tips for Keeping Your Dog Safe in Hot Weather

April 22, 2020 by  
Filed under All Posts, Pet Dogs

Belgian Malinois Dog, Malinois, Belgian Shepherd Malinois, Mechelaar, Mechelese Herder

Overheating isn’t just uncomfortable for a dog – it can be deadly.

Once heatstroke sets in, a series of internal reactions can lead to organ failure, seizures and collapse.
The scary thing is that heatstroke causes permanent damage in minutes. Fortunately, there are many ways to protect your dog during hot weather. Here are seven of the most important.


1. Know the Symptoms of Heatstroke

A dog with heatstroke needs emergency medical care. Make sure you know the symptoms, so you can identify heatstroke as quickly as possible.
Part of the problem is that dogs aren’t great at cooling themselves. They only sweat through their paw pads, so rely on panting to get rid of heat. When this isn’t enough, the body’s internal temperature rises, causing cell death and potentially leading to organ failure or brain damage.
Some dogs are also more prone to heatstroke than others. Bulldogs, pugs and other brachycephalic breeds find it difficult to keep cool. Overweight, thick-furred or elderly dogs are also at greater risk.
Some of the most common signs of heatstroke include:

  • Excessive panting
  • High body temperature
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of coordination
  • Seizures
  • Bright gums
  • Collapsing
  • Other signs of discomfort and a lack of energy

Many of these symptoms only appear when it’s too late. Panting is the most common warning sign, but it’s often missed as dogs always pant during exercise.
If you’re worried about heatstroke, talk to your vet about getting a rectal thermometer. This is the only reliable way to tell if your dog is overheating.

2. Always Provide Fresh Drinking Water

The most important way to prevent heatstroke is to provide fresh and clean drinking water for your dog.
It’s a good idea to have several bowls around the house and garden. You don’t want to risk accidentally shutting your pet in a room without water.
A water fountain may help if your dog is reluctant to drink. These provide running water, which many dogs find more appealing. Some models also filter water to make it taste better.

3. Avoid Leaving a Dog Outside on Hot Days

Many dogs love spending all day outside – especially on warm days. This isn’t always safe though.
In hot weather, it’s best to limit outdoor time to when he needs to eliminate. Playing in a sprinkler or paddling pool may help keep him cool, but even this should be short and supervised.
If your dog must be outside, make sure there is plenty of shade and lots of water available.

4. Never Leave Your Dog in a Hot Car

Despite many awareness campaigns, hundreds of dogs still die every year from being left in a hot car. This is because heatstroke can happen in minutes, not hours.
But have you ever wondered why cars get so hot?
Cars act as mini-greenhouses. Sunlight in the infra-red light spectrum passes through windows, before being absorbed by the car interior. This causes the warmed seats and other fittings to heat up and emit their own infra-red light.
Crucially, this infra-red light has a longer wavelength than the original sunlight. This means it’s reflected back by the windows, rather than passing right through.
The result is that cars rapidly heat up – even on cool days. For example, it’s estimated that it takes just 10 minutes for a car interior to reach 102 degrees on a 85 degree day. This is dangerous for any dog.

5. Take Short Walks in the Morning and Evening

Dogs still need exercise during the summer. Long walks during the hottest hours can be dangerous though – especially as you may be far from medical care.
It’s often better to walk during the early morning or late evening. You may also need to walk shorter distances and watch to ensure he doesn’t over-exercise. Be wary of sidewalks, as these can remain hot enough to burn paw pads until late in the evening.
You should also take lots of water and a bowl on a walk. Take regular breaks to give your dog the chance to re-hydrate.

6. Provide a Cooling Pad

If your dog finds it difficult to maintain a comfortable body temperature, a cooling pad could be the perfect solution.
These beds provide a mild cooling effect that automatically recharges when your dog gets up. They aren’t as cold as an ice pack, but feel similar to a tile floor. This makes them much more comfortable than a warm foam bed during hot weather.

7. Don’t Rely on Your Dog’s Judgement

Dogs are wonderfully intelligent in many ways. But they can become so fixated on an activity that they don’t realize the danger of overheating until it’s too late.
For this reason, don’t assume your dog will know when to stop playing or exercising. Many dogs are happy to run themselves to complete exhaustion if they are chasing a ball or having fun. As an owner, it’s your responsibility to limit your dog’s activity on hot days.
Summary
Overheating is a problem that all dog owners need to take seriously. It’s frightening how quickly heatstroke can cause severe damage and even death.
The good news is that it’s usually easy to prevent heatstroke. Make sure you provide plenty of water, limit activity during hot weather, and keep your dog inside as much as possible. Most importantly, never leave a dog in a car or hot room.

Author: Richard Cross

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