HOW TO AVOID HEAT STROKE IN DOGS
Here in Australia we love our summers. Hot sunny days, beaches and barbeques are part of our identity. As we all know from a day spent too long in the sun, it’s definitely possible to have too much of a good thing. This applies to our pets too, and the most devastating consequence of warm weather is heat stroke.
Although vets can treat affected pets if they’re seen early enough, dogs sadly die from heat stroke every summer. The simple summary below will help you keep your furkids comfortable, safe and chilled out when the mercury rises.
WHAT IS HEAT STROKE?
A dog’s normal core body temperature sits around 38.5°C. Heat stroke, or hyperthermia, is defined as a severe increase in body temperature up to 40.5°C – 43°C caused by elevated ambient temperatures and/or strenuous activity.
WHICH DOGS ARE MOST AFFECTED BY THE HEAT?
Any dog can overheat, but some are more susceptible than others.
The most common group of dogs seen by vets for heat stroke are those known as brachycephalic breeds. These are the dogs with shorter snouts, such as Pugs and Bulldogs (e.g. the popular Frenchies). These guys are very cute, but they have significant problems with their airways and overheat very quickly. It’s vitally important to keep these dogs cool on hot days.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF HEAT STROKE?
Signs may vary between animals, but they commonly include:
- Incessant panting (increases as heat stroke progresses)
- Drooling, salivating
- Agitation, restlessness
- Very red or pale gums
- Bright red tongue
- Increased heart rate
- Breathing distress
- Vomiting, Diarrhoea (possibly with blood)
- Signs of mental confusion, delirium
- Dizziness, staggering
- Lethargy, weakness
- Muscle tremors
- Collapsing and lying down
- Little to no urine production
HOW TO AVOID HEAT STROKE
#1. Keep dogs indoors with air-conditioning on and fresh drinking water during very hot days.
#2. For those outdoors, ensure adequate access to a shady, well-ventilated area all day and that there is plenty of cool, clean drinking water available. Provide multiple sources in case a bowl gets knocked over.
#3. Many dogs will love a kiddie ‘clam shell’ pool filled with water. They can hop in for a splash and have an extra source of drinking water that is unlikely to spill or run out.
#5. Keep coats well-groomed and short. Long matted fur is not only uncomfortable but will trap heat making it harder to cool down.
#6. Frozen treats, prepared the night before, are great for dogs. Throwing a few ice cubes into drinking water will also help to keep it cool and refreshing
#7. Very importantly, never, ever leave your pet alone in a parked car. Even if it’s ‘not that hot’ outside, and even if the windows are down, it can still easily get hot enough to endanger life. The RSPCA advises that it can take just six minutes for a dog to die of heatstroke when left in a car.
HOW TO HELP A DOG EXPERIENCING HEAT STROKE
If you think your dog has heat stroke, you need to get to a vet as soon as possible. Even if they appear to recover, there may be internal damage that takes days to become obvious.
There are some immediate steps you can take at home to help.
- You can pour cool water over them
- Spray them (gently) with a garden hose
- Immerse them in cool water (but not if they are collapsed or struggling to breathe) or
- Drape them with wet towels
- Using a fan to help dissipate heat by convection can also be beneficial.
- With any method of cooling, use tepid or cool water, but NOT ice or iced water. Extreme cold can cause the blood vessels in the skin to react by constricting, and this will cause core body temperature to rise even further.
- Ideally check your dog’s temperature every 10 – 15 minutes.
3. If the temperature has dropped below 39.5°C, stop cooling them immediately. From there on, their temperature can drop rapidly and we don’t want it to go too low.
Offer a drink of water but please don’t force them to drink.