Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer’s Danger: Heatstroke and Your Dog

It’s summer time and it’s finally getting hot! Over the July long weekend, a news story reported the very sad tale of a pup being left in a car on a hot day, for several hours. She died from heat stroke. It was terrible and would have easily prevented.

Pet owners often underestimate how the heat affects their dogs. Please don’t be foolish -- this is a topic that is constantly in the public eye so there is NO excuse for leaving your dog in the car for even a few minutes or over-exercising them on warm days.

Also keep in mind older dogs, dogs who have been quite sedentary during the winter, dogs prone to respiratory conditions like pugs and shih tzus and dogs who are overweight have a very difficult time cooling off and should not be over-exercised this time of year.

I personally walked my own senior dog, Casey, a little too far a few weeks ago, on a warm day. We both paid the price. She was quite ill for 24 hours after. It suddenly, and nearly tragically, reminded me that she is 16 years old -- in human years that is in the upper 90’s!!! Had I lost my gal that day I would have been furious with myself forever and all because we walked a few blocks too much for her 16 year old body... a walk we have done hundreds of times over the years.

Heatstroke can occur in minutes and can be fatal. Following are the signs of a dog with heat stroke.
1. Excessive panting. This is common. A dog that just won’t stop panting: they keep going and going. Sometimes they seem like a little engine that can’t stop.
2. Noisy breathing. Some dogs with airway problems will begin to have trouble and their panting/breathing will become very noisy. Almost like a whistling noise in their windpipe.
3. Weakness. Many dogs that are out exercising or walking just stop. They don’t want to move. They want to lay down and don’t want to keep going.
4. Collapse. This goes along with weakness. Some dogs will eventually collapse or fall over and not want to (or are unable) to get up.
5. Altered mental state. As the heat really gets to dogs, they will seem out of it and disoriented. They often are slow to respond or don’t respond. Their focus is on trying to cool their bodies down.
What should you do if you suspect your dog has heatstroke?
Act fast because heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency! If you are able, check your dog’s temperature rectally if you suspect heatstroke. Normal body temperature in dogs is higher than in humans (99.5 to 102.5 F as compared to 98.6 F). If your dog’s temperature is over 105 F, call your veterinarian and remove your dog from the heat source immediately.

Place a cool, wet towel over your dog or place him in a cool water bath. Do not use ice because it may cause skin injury.

If unable to check your dog’s temperature get to a vet immediately for treatment.

There are several things you can do to prevent heat-related problems for your dog:
• Monitor outdoor temperature and minimize your dog’s activity on hot, humid days.
• Limit sun exposure during the hours of 11 AM to 3 PM on hot days.
• Walk or exercise your dog in the morning or evening.
• Keep your dog in a comfortable environment (air-conditioned room or partially open windows with a breeze) during extremely hot weather.
• NEVER leave your dog in a car (even with the windows partially rolled down) for any reason, at any time. Leaving dogs in a car during warm weather is the most common cause of heat stroke.
• Provide your dog with plenty of fresh water and plenty of shade. Take extra care with puppies and pets with medical problems, obese pets and senior pets.
• Always work to allow your dog to gradually become accustom to high temperatures. Heat illness is common when the dogs have not had sufficient time to acclimate to warmer temperatures.
• After traveling to a warmer climate, allow your dog several days to become acclimated before allowing any vigorous exercise.
Finally, even if you are able to offer heat stroke treatment at home, still take your dog to your vet for a thorough check up & professional analysis. A little bit of common sense can make all the difference in heat stroke and save your pets’ life.


  1. his a definitely a very good read for me!Keep posting!
    Pet sitter San Francisco

  2. Thanks very much Tammy for this article. I've posted it on our TNT Sharpei Rescue fan and group pages on Facebook :) ~Agata


  3. Interesting post. Just like humans, dogs must be properly hydrated to keep them from suffering from heatstrokes.