With the warm weather of summer just around the corner, many areas of the country are already heating up! Dogs, in general, are intolerant of too much heat. Because of this, it is crucial that you’re aware of the signs of heat stress or heat stroke, and how to treat them if they occur. Knowing exactly what to do when your pooch gets overheated, and immediate action can save his life.
A Brief Overview
Heatstroke normally happens when a dog loses his innate ability to regulate his body temperature. Dogs do not sweat all over their bodies the way humans do. Their body temperature is chiefly regulated by respiration such as panting. If a pooch’s respiratory tract fails to clear heat quickly enough, heatstroke may take place.
If an animal experiences heatstroke, you may notice hyperventilation, excessive panting, dry gums that become pale, increased salivation, erratic or rapid pulse, confusion, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, and possibly rectal bleeding. If the dog continues overheating, his breathing efforts will become slow, or worse, absent. This in turn can lead to seizure or coma.
To prevent overheating during the hot summer months, make sure your pet has a shaded, breezy place to rest, away from direct sunlight. Always provide plenty of fresh, cool drinking water. And, don’t push your dog too hard to play or work – give him plenty of breaks throughout the day.
The following guidelines will help should your dog become overheated:
Because overheating can be life-threatening if not treated immediately, noticing the early signs of heat exhaustion will reduce the chances of canine heatstroke and death.
1. Watch your pooch for signs of overheating during the hot weather. Dogs having difficulty with hot temperatures exhibit a combination of the symptoms mentioned above (hyperventilation, excessive panting, dry gums that become pale, increased salivation, erratic or rapid pulse, confusion, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, and possibly rectal bleeding). Once you notice these signs, move your pet to a cooler area immediately, preferably with a fan. Dogs with heavy fur coats and short muzzles tend to manifest signs sooner than other breeds.
2. Using a rectal thermometer, take your pet’s temperature. A dog’s normal body temperature is 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Moderate heating usually happens at around 103 to 106 degrees, while severe heating typically occurs beyond 106 degrees. Contact your vet or the nearest emergency center and then report your dog’s temperature along with the symptoms he is exhibiting.
3. Reduce your pooch’s temperature by putting cool wet towels over his neck, under his armpits, and between his hind legs. Wetting his ear flaps and paw pads using cool water is also advisable. If you are outdoors, a stream or pond can be used to help him cool down.
4. Give your dog fresh cool drinking water. Never force water into his mouth as he may likely suck it out into his lungs. If your pooch refuses to drink, try wetting his tongue with the water instead. Do not offer ice to a dog experiencing heatstroke. If eaten, ice can cool his core body temperature too quickly, shocking his system.
5. Finally, transport your overheated pooch to your vet. Call ahead so he can be alerted to prepare for your dog’s treatment. Your pet may have to receive oxygen, some fluids, and other treatments. With severe overheating, seizure and or cardiac arrest may occur.