It’s hot outside, but the weather is nice, so you take your dog out to play. You should take caution though, your poor pooch isn’t quite as well equipped as you to shed excess body heat.
Let’s explore the symptoms of overheating in dogs, how to prevent it, and what to do about it in an emergency.
Dog Overheating – Signs, Prevention & What To Do
One of the adaptations that humans gained to deal with heat is our lack of body hair. This adaptation allowed us to thrive spending hours a day, hunting in the heat of the open Savannah. We shed excess heat by sweating.
Our four legged friends, descending from wolf populations in Europe between 20,000 – 40,000 years ago, however, aren’t so gifted in that area. While being furry has many advantages for cool climate species, shedding heat is not one of them.
Dogs do sweat through their paw pads, but it’s by panting that dogs circulate the necessary air through their bodies to cool down. This is efficient in cooler climates, but in hot weather, your dog’s respiratory system lacks the surface area get the job done.
Because prevention is always the better road than treatment, let’s start by discussing how to keep your dog from getting overheated.
First and foremost, never leave a dog in a parked car. Even in nice 80 degree weather the temperature inside a parked car can exceed 130 degrees in as little as 15 minutes.
That quick little trip into the store could be long enough to be dangerous for your dog, even with the windows cracked. This is one of the most prevalent causes of heat stroke and heat related death of dogs.
It can be easily prevented, just don’t do it, not even for “just a minute.”
In the dead of summer, try to limit outdoor play to the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late afternoon. A good rule of thumb is if it’s warm for you, it’s downright hot for your pooch.
You should always encourage resting and drinking water when outdoors for extended periods of time with your dog.
Ofcourse, many dogs love water, which is always a fun way to beat the heat. Just be careful, not all dogs doggy paddle well.
And, of course, always bring water for your dog to drink while you’re out and about and encourage her to drink often.
Signs of overheating.
Dogs pant when they are hot. Of course panting doesn’t always mean it overheating, but excessive panting is a good early warning.
If you think your dog may be panting due to heat, immediately start taking steps to cool her down. Offer water and encourage your dog take a break in the shade.
With the panting, you should watch for abundance of drooling. At that point you should probably consider taking your dog indoors.
Further and more serious signs include:
Unstable on their feet or collapse.
Its Gum Color can turn bluish purple, bright red or pale from lack of oxygen.
And then there are extreme signs that indicate you should seek a vet immediately, as they can indicate heat stroke. Those are:
Disorientation, Elevated heart rate, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Labored breathing and
So, what should you do if your dog is overheated?
According to the Canine Training Center, if your dog’s temperature is 105 degrees or more, take immediate action and always cool the dog off at home before traveling to the vet.
How do you cool your dog off?
Use tap water (luke warm, not hot or ice cold) to douse the dog. Water that is too cold constricts blood vessels and decreases the vessels ability to effectively transport sufficient amounts of blood back to the body; therefore taking longer to cool the dog off.
While dousing the dog with water, set a fan to blow on the dog.
Move the dog to shade or A/C.
DO NOT force the dog drink water. Your dog may be too focused on breathing to drink. Allow him to drink when he is ready.
Continue all cool down attempts until the panting stops. Stop cooling once the dog’s temperature gets to 103 degrees; cooling any further could lead to hypothermia.
Take your dog to the vet once she is cooled and at a temperature of 103.
What is heat stroke?
According to Ernest Ward, DVM, heat stroke is the term commonly used for hyperthermia or elevated body temperature.
If a dog’s body temperature exceeds 103°F, it is considered hyperthermic. Body temperatures above 106°F are most commonly referred to as heat stroke. The critical temperature where multiple organ failure and impending death occurs is around 107°F to 109°F.
The prognosis depends on how high the body temperature elevated, how long the hyperthermia persisted and what the physical condition of the dog was prior to the heat stroke.
If the body temperature did not become extremely high, most healthy pets will recover quickly if they are treated immediately. Some dogs may experience permanent organ damage or may die at a later date from complications that developed secondarily to the hyperthermia.
Dogs that experience hyperthermia are at greater risk for subsequent heat stroke due to damage to the thermoregulatory center. Any further exposure to heat should be kept at a minimum.
While all dogs are at risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke if allowed to overheat without treatment, some breeds are at a higher risk than others. This is mostly the breeds that aren’t able to cool down as quickly as others and are often the brachycephalic breeds.
Brachycephalic breeds are dogs that have shortened or “squished” faces. Because their muzzles and heads are shortened and widened but with the same amount of soft tissue as a regular dog, they often have difficulty breathing – therefore they have difficulty cooling down.
Those breeds include: Bulldogs (English, American and French), Pugs, Boxers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Akitas, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, Chow Chows, Sharpeis and Bullmastiffs.
Dogs such as Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes or other artic dogs should also be closely monitored. And with these double coated breeds, shaving won’t keep them cooler. It will just make regulating their temperature more difficult, because as I mentioned earlier, dogs don’t get rid of heat through their skin. They lose it through their respiratory system.
I don’t always cover medical topics, but some are prevalent enough to take time off to cover. I’ll get back to the fun stuff next time, until then hey, stay cool and keep your dog cool.