Some like it hot, but does your dog? During summer, the flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and it is wonderful to be outdoors and play in the sunny weather. Many of us also look forward to playing with our pup in the nice weather. However, sometimes it can be too hot for us. The same thing is true for our canine companions. Many of us are aware of the dangers of leaving dogs in a car in the summer heat, but there are many other causes of heatstroke. Learning to recognize the signs in your canine companions can increase everyone’s summer enjoyment and may prevent serious health problems.
How Do Dogs Cool Themselves?
The first step to understanding how quickly and easily heatstroke can occur is knowing how dogs cool themselves. Dogs are permanently affixed with a fur coat and cannot cool down, like we do, by shedding our clothes. Also, unlike humans, dogs cannot sweat through their skin (except for a small amount through their pads). Instead, they cool themselves by panting. This cools their internal organs and helps to regulate their body temperature.
How Can Heatstroke Develop in Dogs?
The second step to understanding canine heatstroke is understanding the causes of heatstroke. Heatstroke occurs when the normal cooling mechanisms cannot keep the body’s internal temperature within a safe range (dogs are normally 99-101). There are many causes including:
- Being left in a car in warm or hot weather
- Exercising strenuously, especially in hot, humid weather
- Being a brachycephalic dog, such as a Bulldog, Pug, or Pekinese Having a respiratory disorder that does not allow proper panting and breathing, such as laryngeal collapse or tracheal collapse
The most well-known cause for heatstroke is leaving a dog in a car in warm weather. If the outside temperature is 90 and the car windows are closed, the car’s temperature can rise to 109 in under 10 minutes and to 119 in 15 minutes. Cracking the windows slows the temperature increase, but less than you might expect. With a window cracked (not open), a car at 84 can see its temperature rise to 98 in just 10 minutes.
Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs
The third step is learning to recognize the clinical signs of heatstroke to be able to protect your dog.
The following signs may indicate overheating and impending heatstroke:
- Dark red or pale gums
- Excessive panting
- Increased heart rate
- Increased salivation
- Thick, sticky saliva
- Weakness and inability to walk
What to Do if You Suspect Your Dog Has Heatstroke
Heatstroke is a medical emergency. If you suspect your dog is showing signs of heatstroke, immediately take him or her to a cool shady place. Start cooling procedures by gently cooling your dog with water. Place a wet cool towel over your dog. Call your veterinarian immediately and head to your vet or to your nearest MedVet.