Why Heatstroke is So Dangerous in Dogs (& How to Avoid it)

The summer sun is here in the lower mainland and dog lovers everywhere know what means: chasing after sticks, playing catch and getting a good workout while the weather is hot.

… and now on to the dogs!

Haha, I know, so funny. Seriously though, pet owners in Vancouver are salivating at the thought of heading outside, but just like people, dogs are very much at risk to the effects of the heat.

What is Heat Stroke?

When the temperature rises, the body’s heat dissipating mechanisms have a tougher time functioning because of the increase in external heat. It’s not as difficult when it’s cloudy or rainy because a dog’s body can ‘borrow’ the lack of heat from outside.

When it’s hot out, there’s no escape. Your dog doesn’t sweat out excess heat like you do, they pant out the heat. If there’s too much or their internal motor gets running too hot, then they’re incapable of combatting the excess heat and severe damage to internal organs can occur, or worse.

A dog’s normal body temperature is between 100º to 102ºF, but they don’t know that and neither do you when you’re out in the park.

So how can you tell your pet is in trouble?

The Signs of Heat Stroke

If you notice any of these symptoms then your dog needs immediate veterinary attention:

  • Rapid breathing or panting
  • Bright red tongue
  • Discoloured gums (pale or extra red)
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea

One of the other ways to spot heatstroke in your dog is their mood. Do they seem depressed even though they’re doing something they love? Are they swaying slightly? Are they responsive?

In other words, if something doesn’t seem normal, then don’t think twice – something is not normal! If you suspect heatstroke then immediately remove your pet from the heat and try to cool them with shade or lukewarm water around the neck, ears and on the belly. After that, take them for aid right away.

Related: what your veterinarian do to lower your dog’s body temperature.

Stop Heatstroke Before it Happens

So why is heatstroke so difficult to detect in dogs?

Because they don’t tell us something is wrong. That lack of a common language sure is pesky, isn’t it?

Although unless we’re dealing with a brand new pet, we usually understand exactly what they’re saying, right? After all, we spend more time watching their movements and routines then we do understanding our own routines.

The key to preventing heatstroke in pets is making sure they have access to something cool. When you go to the park this summer, follow these tips:

  • Keep an abundance of cool, fresh water available
  • Choose an area with plenty of shade and thick, long grass (beaches are not a dog’s friend)
  • Keep exercise to a minimum & take plenty of breaks
  • Don’t let your dog get to a point where they’re panting or wheezing too much

Helping Those Without a Voice to Help Themselves

The summer is a wonderful time to be a pet owner. You don’t have to worry about mud tracked through the house (as much) or having a wet dog shake itself out in the living room before you can dry him off.

However, the rainy months are a lot safer for dogs who love being outside. the problem is that it often doesn’t take a lot of added heat for dangerous situations to occur.

Your dog might enjoy summer more, but they don’t quite grasp the concept of heatstroke, so it’s up to us to protect them from the dangerous effects the sun can have.

So have fun this summer, and keep everybody in your family safe.

photo credit: DSC_0353 via photopin (license)

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