Some of us live for hot weather, counting down the days until we can hop in the pool. Others, meanwhile, spend most of the summer hiding in the shade with a good book and a cold drink.
Our dogs aren’t much different (except that they can’t read!). Some love to have fun in the sun and others prefer the air-conditioned life. However, no matter how your pup feels about summer, it’s important to protect them from the dangers of hot weather.
Today, we’re taking a close look at one such danger — heat stroke — and giving you all the information you need to identify signs of heat stroke in dogs. That way, you can keep your pup healthy, comfortable and happy no matter the weather.
What is Heat Stroke?
Even if you haven’t experienced it yourself, you’ve probably heard of heat stroke. However, you may not have known that dogs are just as susceptible as humans — and actually more so, thanks to their fur coats and inability to efficiently dissipate body heat. We can sweat, but dogs rely mostly on panting to keep cool!
Here’s what you need to know:
Heat Stroke in Pets Defined
Heat stroke is a term meaning “an unsafe spike in body temperature.” It’s also known as hyperthermia — not to be confused with hypothermia, its direct opposite.
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), dogs have a normal internal temperature of 101.5° Fahrenheit. For reference, this is higher than the normal human temperature, which falls between 97 and 99°F according to MedlinePlus. Heat stroke occurs when a dog’s temperature exceeds 105°F, and symptoms can be fatal between 107 and 109°F, as VCA Animal Hospitals explains.
Heat stroke is often caused by overactivity and dehydration in hot weather, but it can also occur if a dog is left in a hot car for too long. While many pets recover from heat stroke if treated quickly and appropriately, others may experience organ damage or other long-term health effects, according to VCA Animal Hospitals.
Heat Stroke vs. Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stress
Heat exhaustion is the first stage of heat stroke. In humans and pets alike, heat exhaustion has less severe symptoms (like increased thirst or irritability) than heat stroke and frequently acts as a warning to get out of hot weather.
Heat stress, on the other hand, is a more generalized term for dehydration and the inability to control body heat, according to Better Health Channel.
Treating Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
If you catch heat stroke when it’s still heat exhaustion, it’s far easier to treat. Dogs and humans alike will usually feel better after taking a rest, finding some cool water or getting under a fan.
However, according to VCA Animal Hospitals, heat stroke is considered a medical emergency, which means you should get to the vet as soon as possible. In the meantime, it’s important to find cool water — not cold water — to pour over the dog’s head and stomach. If possible, you should also create airflow using a fan or open car window to help cool your furry friend.
Heat Stroke in Dogs: What to Look For
Pets can’t apply their own flea treatment, fill their own water bowl or give themselves food supplements when necessary. They rely on us to watch out for red flags, especially when it comes to something as serious as dog heat stroke.
Here are a few key signs of heat stroke in dogs:
- Excessive panting.
- Excessive drooling.
- High heart rate.
- Discolored gums.
- Muscle weakness or shakiness.
Certain dogs are at higher risk for heat stroke; this can depend on weight, age and other health conditions. According to research in Scientific Reports, the most susceptible breeds include:
- Chow Chows.
- Golden retrievers.
- Springer spaniels.
How to Prevent Heat Stroke in Dogs
Heat stroke is serious and scary, quickly turning a fun summer day into a medical emergency. While it’s important to know the signs of heat stroke in dogs, you should also know how to keep this issue from occurring in the first place.
Here are a few simple but powerful tips for preventing heat stroke in dogs:
Know Your Pup
Every dog is different, and no one knows your pup better than you. That means your dog is counting on you to remember if they’re at higher risk for heat stroke because of their breed, health or weight. You should also know how fit they are — for example, will they be out of breath and exhausted after one round of fetch? — so you can judge how long to stay out in the sun.
Keep Water Handy
Cool water and a convenient dog bowl can make all the difference on a hot day. That’s especially true when it comes to automated water fountains, which encourage dogs to keep drinking (and reduce the time you spend refilling the bowl, too). Just make sure your water supply is clean and safe. For example, don’t let your furry friend drink from the ocean. Also, ensure that the water itself doesn’t get too hot to drink.
Don’t Play Too Long
Some dogs may not show the early signs of heat exhaustion because they’re so excited to play with you. (Who has time to take a drink when a ball keeps flying through the air?) Don’t get distracted by that cute face — it’s your job to limit your pup’s activity in hot weather. Instead, plan playtime around cooler parts of the day and go outside in short, frequent bursts.
Remember, you can get heat exhaustion or heat stroke too, so don’t overdo it. For your own good and your dog’s, keep yourself hydrated and rest in the shade whenever you start getting too hot.
Get Help Protecting Your Furry Friend
Our dogs take care of us in so many ways — it’s important that we return the favor. That’s especially true in hot weather, when dogs may be too excited to grab a drink or take a break. To keep your furry friend from getting heat stroke — a potentially serious health condition — remember to look for key signs of distress and keep cool water nearby.
Heat stroke is a big deal, but it shouldn’t keep you from having some safe fun in the sun. Before you race to the park, beach or pool, stop by your nearest Pet Supermarket to stock up on summer toys and hot weather health supplies!