By Dawn Tucker, DVM
Animal Emergency and Critical Care
Summer is here! This means a dramatic increase in the risk of heat related illness in dogs. With an increase in temperature and humidity, a constant eye is needed, because the onset of heat stress is quick with little to no warning. It is important to know the signs of heat stress, as it could save your pet’s life.
What is heat stress? Dogs do not sweat like humans; instead, they release heat by panting and sweating through their paws and nose. If they are unable to cool off by releasing heat, internal body temperature begins to rise.
There are two signs of heat stress in dogs. Symptoms include increased thirst and increased panting. If heat stress continues for too long it may progress to heat exhaustion. Symptoms include heavy panting, weakness, and episodes of collapsing. If no immediate treatment, heatstroke is likely to develop quickly.
Signs of heatstroke include:
• Increased heart rate and respiratory rate
• Change in gum color (bright red or pale)
• Vomiting and/or diarrhea
• Dullness and collapse
• Muscle tremors and/or seizures
What to do for heat stress:
• Move your dog to a shaded spot, or air conditioned room
• Offer fresh, cool water
• Stop all physical activities until their signs resolve
If your dog’s symptoms worsen, and you believe your dog is experiencing heatstroke, please take immediate steps.
• Begin cooling your dog by wetting down their body with a hose or bucket, but avoid the face
• A fan blowing over their damp skin will assist in cooling them down
• See a veterinarian immediately
• It is not advised to place wet towels over the body as it will trap the heat that is trying to escape
How to prevent heat stress in dogs:
• Do not leave your dog alone in the car during warm days, even with windows open. Temperatures can rise to dangerously high levels in a matter of minutes.
• Avoid exercise on warm and humid days. On a hot day, try limiting outdoor activity to the early morning or late night hours after the sun has gone down.
• When outside, opt for shady areas.
• Keep fresh cool water available at all times.
• Certain types of dogs are more sensitive to heat – especially obese dogs and brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds, like pugs and bulldogs. Use extreme caution when these dogs are exposed to heat even with a short walk.