Heat Stroke and Your Dog

Dogs will play as long as you will let them.  However, on hot days, that drive to play over and over may cause them to suffer heat stroke.  Dogs cannot sweat except on the pads of their paws.  They cool themselves by panting and in extreme heat, or when the dog has over exerted himself, that just isn’t enough.

All dogs are at risk of heat stroke.  The risk increases for elderly dogs, those with heavy coats, those that are overweight, of large build, heavily muscled, or short nosed.  The symptoms of a dog with heat stroke are heavy panting and feeling warm to the touch.  Their lips will stick to their gums and the inner ears will flush.  If your dog becomes unstable on her feet, barely or nonresponsive, or even comatose, you must act at once.

Heat stroke is always an emergency that needs veterinary attention.  However, there are things you can do to start helping your dog while you transport him to the vet.  First, try to cool them from the inside out by giving them ice cubes to lick.  Even a drop of a few degrees in the dog’s temperature can increase his ability to recover from the heat stroke.

If the dog is comatose, bath the foot pads in rubbing alcohol.  Alcohol evaporates very rapidly and this will help cool the dog’s body.

One easy way to cool your dog off is to get her good and wet.  Use cool but not cold water as cold water can cause seizures.  Spray the dog with the hose, put her in a tub and let her soak, get her wet and turn a fan on her to cool her down more.

Now that you have cooled the dog down some, it is time to rush to the vet.  Cover the dog with wet towels on her head, neck, chest, and abdomen.  These are the places that most need to stay cool.  Continue giving the dog ice cubes as you drive.  Turn on your car’s air conditioner to help reduce the dog’s temperature as you go toward your veterinarian.

Of course, the best thing to do is to prevent heat stroke in the first place.  Provide lots of water and shade for your dog and don’t exercise excessively in the heat.  Play in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are not so high.

Be careful tying your dog outside.  If the dog wraps his tie around something and gets stuck in the sun, away from shade and water, he can overheat rapidly.

When you leave your car to run errands, do not let the dog stay in the car, even for a minute.  Cars quickly heat up and can reach 130 degrees F in a matter of minutes.  Leaving a window open won’t help.

Always offer your dog water during exercise or when walking.  Every twenty minutes is a good time to offer a drink.

Finally, make sure the dog’s house is in the shade.  A dog house in the sun can become an oven.  Make sure the water is in the shade, too.  Hot water will reduce the amount the dog drinks and raise her body temperature when she does drink.