Heat stroke can ruin a beautiful day out with your dog. After a long winter cooped up, we’re ALL waiting for the beautiful sunny days of summer. Playing with our dogs is so much more fun when the sun is shining, and it is easy to fall into the false security that nothing is going to happen. It’s important to know how to avoid heat stroke for both your dog and you so that both of you can enjoy the season to the fullest.
During the summer around the farm everyone gets much more active. The kids are getting ready for the fair, showing their dogs and horses, we are always gardening or doing all sorts of different projects and the dogs are running the yard. But during the heat of the day we like to hide in the house as much as we can. The reprieve from work usually means time for inside chores, but our dogs, unlike the people, are happily sleeping away in the air conditioning. Siestas are instinctual!
What Is Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke, a type of hyperthermia, can be a serious life-threatening medical condition. Basically, heat stoke is where your dog’s body cannot maintain its optimum body temperature after exposure to high external heat and humidity. Any body temperature above 103°F is considered abnormal and can be referred to as heat exhaustion, heat stroke sets in around 106°F. With temperatures of 107°F organs begin to shut down and if they continue to rise the death.
How Do Dog’s Deal with the Heat?
Dog’s do not deal with heat the same way people do. You are definitely not going to see a dog pouring sweat after a run. They DO have sweat glands, two types actually. One, merocrine glands, which function a lot like human sweat glands but are only located on the pads of their feet. The other, apocrine glands are located all over your dog’s body, but do nothing for releasing heat. Instead your dog relies on panting to cool his body.
Causes of Heat Stroke in Dogs
Cars Can Cause Heat Stroke
Heat stroke occurs when your dog cannot escape the heat and has no way to cool himself down. The most common cause of heat stroke in dogs is being left in the car without adequate ventilation and no water. It only takes a few minutes for a closed car to reach dangerous temperatures, even on cooler days. As long as the sun is shining the temperature can rise 40°F within one hour with 80% of that raise with in the first half hour. Even long car rides can prove to be to much for a dog to handle.
Rooms and Heat Stroke
Many people have rooms devoted to keeping their dogs while their out, which is WONDERFUL! I wish I had one! But just like cars, non-ventilated rooms can get pretty hot. If your dog is kept in a room for extended periods of time make sure there is plenty of air flow (air conditioning for some dogs is almost a must) and lots of water to keep them hydrated.
Too Much Exercise
One of my favorite things to do with my dogs is throw the ball. During the heat of the day however, it is best to avoid any strenuous activities such as long walks or intense running games, stick to light games. If you do go to the park or play in the back yard, make sure there is plenty of shade for your pup to escape to and plenty of water.
Lengthy Exposure to Heat
Some dogs work for a living and live outside no matter the weather. I know to some it sounds like neglect and cruel but these dogs and the jobs they do are vitally important to the families they serve. There is a right way and a wrong way to keep working dogs safe during hot weather. Never confine a dog in an area with no shade. The temperature in shade is quite lower and is a needed refuge during the sweltering summer heat. Also, dogs that are kept outside should always have access to fresh cool water.
Primping can Lead to Heat Stroke
When we think of heat stroke, we most likely assume it’s a hot day out, but that doesn’t have to be the case at all. A dog can suffer heat stroke from a heating-element contining grooming dryer during any weather. While at the groomers, very often a dog will be placed in a drying cage after a bath. Essentially this is just a kennel with a giant blow dryer pointed at the door. If not done correctly, the heat from the dryer can be caught and overheat poor Fido! Always make sure there is ample air flow in and out of the cage and keep exposure to no more than 15 minutes. NEVER leave any dog in a drying cage unattended. But most importantly DO NOT use on any dog that is prone to heat stroke.
Dogs at Higher Risk for Heat Stroke
Many dogs are at a higher risk of developing heat related heath issues. Air conditioning can help a lot to keep these guys cool.
Brachycephalic dogs (dogs with pushed in faces) are at a much higher risk for heat stroke than other dog breeds. These breeds cannot pant effectively therefore cannot cool themselves as well as other breeds. These breeds include the Affenpinscher, Boston terriers, boxers, Brussles Griffon, English bulldog, cane corso, Chihuahua, chow chow, Dogue de Brodeaux, English mastiff, French bulldog, Griffon Bruxellois, Japanese chin, King Charles spaniel, Neapolitan mstiff, Pekingese, pug, rottweiler, and the shih tzu.
Older dogs and the very young have a very hard time maintaining their body temperature and are much more susceptible to developing heat stroke.
Dogs with thicker coats like golden retrievers and huskies are at more of a risk. You may be tempted to cut or shave these dogs but don’t, their fur actually helps them to maintain their body temperature.
Certain diseases hamper your dog’s ability to regulate properly. If your dog suffers from heart disease, lung disease, problems with heart or lungs, hyperthyroidism, or is obese keep a close eye on them when it is warm out.
Heat Stoke Again?!
Dogs who have had heat stroke before are at a higher risk of getting it again (same thing for people).
Symptoms of Heat Stroke in Dogs
- Excessive panting
- Excessive drooling
- Body temperature above 103°F
- Difficulty breathing
- Reddening of mucous membranes
- Nose bleeds
- Blood in urine/stool
- Reduced or ceased urine production
- Changes in mental state
- Loss of coordination
- Muscle tremors
- Acute kidney failure
- Rapid heart rate
- Irregular cardiac rhythm
- Pulmonary fluid accumulation
What to Do if You Think Your Dog is Suffering from Heat Stroke
The first thing you need to do if you think your dog is suffering from heat stroke is to remove them from the heat and brought into a cool area. Take your dog’s temperature. You need to call your vet as soon as possible and follow their advice. Your vet may have you wet him down with a cool towel, do NOT leave the towel draped over his body as it can actually hold in heat. You can also wipe down his ears, pads, and groin area with rubbing alcohol to help safely reduce his body temperature.
Summer fun is a beloved pastime for human and dog alike. We all love basking in the warmth, the world full of green, and of course the sun! Everything seems to come alive. Keep the summer fun by taking a few precautions to avoid Fido, and you for that matter, over heating.