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Heat Stroke Awareness

Now that we're in the midst of summer with excessive heat in some parts of the country, it's important to know the signs of heat stroke.


Heat stroke can affect even the healthiest of dogs. It doesn't even necessarily have to be extremely hot outside for a dog to become overcomestaying outside in areas with very high humidity can affect a dog as well. It can also happen in enclosed areas with there is high temperatures and/or high humidity and little or no ventilation.

Since dogs deal with heat by panting and by sweating through their paws, they are not able to regulate heat as well as we can. There are also particular breeds that are more at risk than others, such as brachycephalic dogs like Boxers and Pugs, and dogs that have chronic medical conditions and/or are seniors. Some common signs that your dog may be getting overheated are:

  • Panting excessively beyond what you would normally see from your dog, as well as difficulty in breathing and/or a rapid heart beat;

  • Discomfort, which may be indicated by pacing or signs the dog is becoming disoriented and/or weakthis may even lead to collapsing;

  • Drooling excessively and/or vomiting;

  • Diarrhea which may include blood;

  • Seizures are also a possibility.

If you see any of these signs in your dog, you should immediately bring them to an area where they are out of the heat and in shade. If you are near a water source, such as a bath tub or sink if you have a small dog, put them inside and run cool water over them. Make sure that you run the water all over their body so that you reach critical areas such as their back and neck, and the water should be lukewarmnot cold. It's also very important if your dog is unconscious to not allow their head to drop in the water as this can lead to taking in water and possible choking and even pneumonia.

Another option is to use a water hose to bring your dog's temperature down. You can also place ice packs on his or her body if you have them, or even packages of frozen food items.

If you have a thermometer on hand, it's recommended to check their temperature every few minutesyou want to cool the dog's body so it reaches 103 or below.

Massaging the dog's legs can help with improving their circulation and diminish the chance for the dog to go into shock.

If your dog is awake, you can let him or her drink water and you can supplement the water with some salt which can help replace lost minerals in their body.

As soon as you are able, take the dog for emergency veterinary care. Even if your dog seems better after you have cooled him or her down, heat stroke can have lasting effects of the body that may not show up for some time, such as kidney failure. Your vet will most likely treat your dog by providing IV fluids and keeping an eye on your dog for any complications.

Prevention is keyif you know you will be outside in the heat with your dog, or traveling in a hot car, make sure you have plenty of water on hand in a cooler, blankets that you can wet to keep your dog cool, shade for your dog, and good flowing ventilation. Some options you can look at are dog "cooling pads" which are gel filled pads for dogs to lay on which stay cool in hot weather, as well as cooling coats that dogs can wear that perform a similar function. Your local hiking and sporting good stores will also most likely sell special types of bandannas and wraps that can provide extra cooling when soaked in water. Most of all, keep an eye on your dog if he or she gets too active and overheats themselves during play, and be safe and have fun in the sun!

Sources: American Animal Hospital Association, Pet MD, and DVM Multimedia.

Photo credit: It;s A Dog's Day Out There........Cooling In Style is Fun.... via photopin (license)

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