As the temperature rises, it is time to remind dog owners to watch out for their dogs. Dogs can overheat rather easily. They cannot dissipate heat easily. In a matter of minutes a dog can suffer from severe heat stroke and die.

Dogs cannot sweat like we do. In fact, the only sweat glands dog have is on the pads of their feet. Dogs rely primarily on panting to dissipate heat. But, this is not a very efficient method to cool down and may not be enough depending on the temperature and the conditions.

Below are some symptoms of heat stroke in dogs as a simple guide. Don’t rely on just these symptoms only as I am a professional dog trainer, not a veterinarian. I encourage you to talk to your vet if you think a heat stroke could be possible in your dog’s situation.
Here are some signs of heatstroke:

  • Rapid panting
  • Red or very pale gums
  • A bright red tongue
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Vomiting (there can be blood)
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Shock
  • Coma

We commonly think of heatstroke in association with leaving a dog in a car in the summer time; but dogs can be overcome with heatstroke even when you are with them.   Be aware if you take your dog to the beach, go hiking together, go jogging, doing obedience training, or your dog is just out in the sun too long.    Do everything in moderation.  If they are overdoing any exercise, he or she can develop heatstroke.

If you see your dog exhibiting any of the symptoms in relation to heat you should act immediately.  Bring your dog in from the heat and sun.   Before you even head to the vet you can start lowering his body temperature by wetting him all over with cool water.   Do NOT use ice cold water. Very cold water can cause a serious reaction when applied too quickly.  Use cool water to begin bringing your dog’s body temperature back toward normal.  Call your veterinarian immediately.  Keep your veterinarian’s number AND the emergency veterinarian number in a place easy to reach.

If available, apply alcohol to his paw pads, ears and groin area. These areas are sensitive and will respond to the cooling sensation of the alcohol.

As soon as your dog’s body temperature approaches 103 degrees (you can check with a rectal thermometer), you should be on your way to the vet’s office.  Again, contact your vet.

You can allow your dog to have access to cool water or to Pedialyte. Don’t try to force water into him. He could choke.

Your vet will continue to bring your dog’s body temperature back down to normal. He will provide your dog with oxygen and IV fluids. He may wish to keep your dog to check for any lingering effects such as shock or organ failure.

If your dog has had moderate heatstroke he will likely recover without serious problems. A severe heatstroke could cause organ damage and your dog may require a special diet and other care. He will be at increased risk for another bout of heatstroke afterwards.

Heat Stroke in Dogs

To prevent heatstroke be sure to do the following:

  • Keep your pet out of hot cars even on slightly warm days.  Cars heat up quickly and may reach temperatures of 140 degrees.
  • Make sure your dog has access to water at all times.
  • Make sure that your dog always has access to shade.
  • Restrict or moderate exercise on hot days.  Better yet, wait until the cool part of the day – early mornings or evenings.
  • Don’t muzzle your dog. It prevents panting which allows your dog to get increased air.
  • Avoid the beach, black pavement and concrete areas on hot days since there is no shade.
  • Wet your dog down, let him play in a kiddie pool or let him swim on hot days.

Air conditioning is great if your dog is indoors, but it’s not always reliable. If your dog spends the day in the house you can help make sure that he stays cool by purchasing a cool pad. These are pads that can be dampened and frozen overnight. Your dog can lie on the pad if he chooses, to cool himself off.

If you take the appropriate precautions you should be able to keep your dog from ever experiencing heatstroke. If your dog does have an attack of heatstroke follow the suggestions here and get him to the vet as soon as possible. Take the heat seriously! Stay cool in the summer time.

And, show this article to your veterinarian and/or ask for his or her recommendations!