Animals do not have efficient cooling systems like humans who sweat when hot, so they get overheated more easily. Cats are smart enough to seek shade and lie low on a hot day. Dogs would be, too, if left to their own devices – but an invitation from his human to go for a walk or chase the Frisbee will get him up and moving even when he’s too hot.
While it is important to keep walking and exercising your dog even during the hotter months, be careful not to overdue it. Walk at a gentler pace and take a water bottle along for your dog. Stop in the shade if she is panting a lot or starts to slow down.
Check the sidewalk temperature! If it is too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your pets’ paws. Find a grassy area for your walk.
Factors that increase the risk of Heatstroke:
- Elderly, young & ill animals have a harder time regulating their body temperature.
- Dogs with shorter noses such as Pugs, Pekingese, and Bulldogs cannot pant as efficiently, so they will overheat more quickly.
- Overweight dogs are more prone to overheating as their extra layer of fat keeps the heat in.
- Humidity interferes with a dog’s ability to cool itself through panting and increases the risk of overheating.
Signs of Heatstroke:
Heatstroke can be fatal, so know the signs and what to do if you see them.
- Heavy panting.
- Rapid breathing.
- Excessive drooling.
- Bright red gums and tongue.
- Standing with all four feet braced to maintain balance.
- Glassy eyed – staring into space or anxious look.
- Rapid Heartbeat.
- White or blue gums.
- Refusal to move.
- Uncontrollable urination or defecation.
- Labored, noisy breathing.
What to do:
- Apply cool water (not ice cold) to groin area.
- Get the dog wet – hose him down or dip him in a pool (don’t ask him to swim).
- Offer water or ice chips to lick – but do not force water down him.
- Rub alcohol on the paws.
- Once he is interested in drinking, offer pedialyte or another electrolyte drink.
If you see any signs of advanced heatstroke or your dog does not respond to the above measures, get him to the veterinary emergency room quickly.
Check for dehydration and treat accordingly – see our post “Signs of Dehydration in Dogs“.