Heat stroke/Heat Stress and Heat exhaustion are, for all intents and purposes one and the same. Excessive heat and/or poor ability to get rid of heat can have deadly consequences for our fur family.
Dogs have very few sweat glands (mostly in the paws/feet) and rely almost exclusively on panting (evaporative heat loss) to cool down. If they cannot effectively reduce heat on their own their bodies begin shutting down in order to preserve brain and heart function and eventually that shuts down too (seizures, cardiac arrest, and death).
Normal body temperature in a dog in 99.5-102.5 degrees F.
It can reach as high as 108 degrees in dogs that have overheated (just this week we treated a young Husky puppy that was 108.5degrees!
However, a dog with a temperature of 106 is not necessarily in better shape than a dog that is 108. It really depends on the individual dog, the symptoms they are displaying and most importantly the response to treatment. A sudden improvement in symptoms often occurs when we get them below 104 degrees and that is usually the point when we stop “active cooling’.
These may just be anxiety and uncontrolled panting this may progress to confusion, drooling, weakness, drunken behavior (ataxia) collapse, vomiting/diarrhea, blue/purple or bright red gums, “bruising” of the gums (petechiae), seizures and loss of consciousness.
Any dog can suffer heat stress. However, some dogs are at a higher risk.
- Dogs with thick coats or long hair,
- Very young or very old dogs
- Working/extremely active dogs
- Outside dogs
- Brachycephalic breeds—those with short noses and flat faces, such as Shih Tzu’s, Pugs, Boxers and Bulldogs. A short walk around the block on a moderately warm day can cause these breeds to overheat!
- Overweight dogs
- Dogs that suffer from medical conditions that cause difficulty breathing or heart problems are especially susceptible.
Outside Dogs/Working Dogs – as dogs cannot sweat to reduce heat and they often do not have an “off” button, they rely on us to ensure they can cool appropriately. We need to ensure they have shaded areas, plenty of fresh water available at all times, provide high energy treats if doing a lot of activity and have adequate breaks from play.
A word about HOT CARS: multiple studies have shown how quickly temperatures rise in parked cars even with the windows cracked and/or in the shade. Temperatures can increase up to 20 degrees in the first 10 minutes alone! Cracking the windows does very little if anything in slowing heat gain. So if you are taking your pet with you for a drive BE PREPARED and think about what you will do with them if you need to go into a store etc.
Travel – be it by car, RV, plane, or another form — can put your dog at risk for suffering from heat stroke. The dangers are present both during the journey and even once you arrive at your destination. Be aware of these risks, book and plan your travel itinerary carefully, and recognize that your dog may need time to acclimate to the temperatures and humidity levels at your final destination.
What to do if you suspect early heat stress:
- Remove your pet from the hot environment (find shade or AC)
- Direct a fan on them
- If possible check the rectal temperature
- If not improving and/or temperature above 104 begin active cooling:
- Place cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits, and in the groin.
- Wet earflaps and paws.
- Ensure to direct a fan on these wetted areas to speed cooling.
- Transport to nearest Veterinary facility immediately
As hyperthermia can affect many body systems, simply reducing their temperature may not be enough and they should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
What NOT to do:
- Do not overcool them. If their temperature reduces to less than 103, stop active cooling.
- Do not force them to drink, have fresh, cool water available for when they recover.
- Do not leave your pet unattended for any length of time
There is no evidence showing that a dog that has had a previous overheating event is not more at risk than any other dog however they are more likely to have another episode if we do not address the underlying cause – overweight, not acclimated to the heat, breathing restriction, unfit, hot environment.
**Come in and talk to one of our knowledgeable staff about weight loss programs and how we can help your short-nosed dog snore less, breathe easier and be safer during the summer!**
“Deep Summer is when laziness finds respectability.” – Sam Keen