Canine Hyperthermia: How to keep your dog cool in hot weather
After a long, cold Canadian winter, we’re all more than ready to head outside with our furry family members for some fun in the sun.
However, summer in Toronto usually means one thing – hot, humid weather. Nobody likes to be soaked in perspiration and feeling drained, including dogs. They’re suffering just as much as us – if not more – under that shiny, fur coat.
When the temperatures rise and the sun shines, we dutifully take precautions, such as wearing sunscreen and staying hydrated. The same goes for dogs – it’s up to responsible pet parents to keep them safe and comfortable on excessively hot and humid days.
Take steps to protect your dog in the summer heat.
Whether taking your dog for a walk, a ride in the car or just playing in the backyard, heat and humidity can pose a significant threat. Heatstroke or exhaustion can easily cut your outdoor escapades short and result in harmful outcomes.
WHAT IS HEAT STROKE IN DOGS?
Heat stroke (aka. heat exhaustion, heat prostration or hyperthermia) is a term used to describe an elevated body temperature above the generally accepted norm. Although normal temperatures for dogs will vary, it is acknowledged that body temperatures above 39° C (103° F) are excessive.
When a dog’s body temperature climbs above the normal range, they begin to lose their ability to regulate their internal temperature. Up to this point, dogs can normalize their body temperature through respiratory means (panting) or through sweat glands in the nose and paws.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HEAT STROKE OR HEAT EXHAUSTION IN DOGS?
It’s relatively easy to spot the earliest sign of an overheated pup – excessive panting. This is the first indication to get your dog into a cooler environment. Other early signs are more indirect, but may be as simple as your dog being less reactive to regular commands or drinking more water than usual.
If you happen to miss these early indicators and exposure to oppressive heat persists, a severely overheated dog may collapse, experience convulsions and/or exhibit vomiting. Therefore, you must identify the problem before it gets to that point. If there is any uncertainty at all, GET YOUR DOG OUT OF THE HEAT. Yes, we’re yelling…
Visible symptoms of heat stroke in dogs include:
- difficulty breathing; excessive drooling or panting
- severe thirst
- weakness and/or fatigue
- unsteady, uncoordinated movements
- agitation and disorientation
- dark or bright red tongue and gums
- elevated and/or irregular heart rate
- dark, bloody stools
- muscle tremors/seizures
Severe heat stroke in dogs can cause internal medical issues, such as kidney failure, brain swelling and intestinal bleeding. This is bad. If you observe any of the above tell-tale symptoms, immediate veterinary care at our clinic or an after-hours emergency facility is highly recommended.
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR HEATSTROKE OR HEAT EXHAUSTION?
All dogs are at risk for overheating under the right conditions. However, dogs with heavy coats/long hair, very young or very old dogs and brachycephalic breeds tend to be more susceptible. Overweight dogs and those that suffer from underlying medical conditions – causing breathing or heart problems – are especially vulnerable.
9 Factors that Raise the Risk of Heat Stroke in Dogs:
- dehydration due to inadequate water intake or lack of water access
- age – the very young and very old
- obesity, resulting in poor heart and/or lung conditioning
- underlying history of heart or lung related disease
- increased levels of thyroid hormone
- flat-faced, short-nosed, breeds such as boxers, shih tzus, bulldogs and pugs
- heavy, long and/or dark coats
- extremely active dogs and working/hunting breeds such as shepherds, spaniels and retrievers
- environmental factors such as overheated automobiles or lack of shade
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DOG IS OVERHEATED
At the first sign of overheating, immediate action is required to cool down your dog.
5 Ways to Treat an Overheated Dog:
- move your dog immediately to a cooler area, either indoors where there is air conditioning or into the nearest shade.
- it’s a bit of a stretch, but if you have a rectal thermometer, check your dog’s temperature. Heat stroke or exhaustion normally occurs when a dog’s temperature exceeds 39° C or 103° F. If your dog enters this ‘danger zone’, call our veterinary clinic immediately.
- if you’re near a body of fresh water (lake or pool), encourage your dog take a dip. In the absence of a body of water, use a cooled towel to help reduce core body temperature. Place the towel around the neck, armpits and between the hind legs.
- if your dog is conscious, give him cool, fresh water. Forcing your dog to drink is ill-advised, as it may end up in the lungs creating more issues. If your pup can’t – or won’t -drink, liberally wet their tongue with water. Feeding ice cubes sounds like a good idea, however, it may cause their temperature to drop too quickly, leading to shock.
- get your dog to our animal hospital. Call ahead so we can administer prompt treatment as soon as you arrive. If it’s an after-hours emergency, take your dog to the nearest 24/7 emergency animal hospital.
6 TIPS TO KEEP YOUR DOG COOL AND BEAT THE SUMMER HEAT:
1. Always Stay Hydrated.
While outside, make sure your dog has access to fresh water, shade and shelter away from direct sunlight. At home, keep fresh drinking water in their dish. Toss ice cubes into the bowl for an extra cool-down measure.
2. Be Exercise Wise.
If you plan on walking your dog in the summer heat, limit walks and playtime to short sessions at cooler times of the day – the early morning or late evening. Bring along a water bottle or collapsible water dish with lots of cold water and take frequent water breaks. If possible, stay on the shady side of the street and remember that your dog’s paws are very sensitive to hot pavement.
3. Go for a Dip.
One of the best ways for your dog to stay cool is to find water, whether it’s a lake, river, neighbour’s pool, kiddie pool, local dog pool or simply at the business end of a garden hose.
4. Create A Breeze.
A no-brainer – a breeze can make summer heat more bearable. For cooling by evaporation, a strategically placed fan can create enough moving air to provide your dog some solid, cool-down relief.
5. Frozen Treats and Toys.
Chilled or frozen dog treats are an excellent summer treat for your dog. They not only help keep your dog cool, but also aid in relieving boredom when it’s too hot to be outside.
6. Stay Inside.
The easiest strategy, especially if you have a brachycephalic breed, an elderly and/or obese dog – keep them inside your air-conditioned home except for quick outdoor bathroom breaks. If you’re without air conditioning, keep your windows and curtains shut during the day to keep the heat out. Run fans to help keep you dog cool and open the windows at night to let the cooler air in.