Dogs do not sweat like humans. They begin to pant and drool when they get too hot. The extra air cools their saliva, helps evaporation in their lungs and reduces body temperature. Their blood vessels will also expand in their ears, face, and feet to get more blood exposed to the air to cool down.
Because a dog’s body temperature is already higher than yours, they do not have very far to go before it pushes into dangerous levels. The very thing that makes your pet such a great cuddle buddy when it is cold outside puts them in danger when it is hot out. Even a 4-degree temperature spike in your dog could be lethal, possibly causing internal damage if left too long.
Let’s talk about the signs of heatstroke. If you catch it early, you can cut it off and prevent it from spiraling into serious problems. Remember, even if you successfully cool down your dog, you should take them to the vet anyway- there may be damage to their organs.
Signs of Heatstroke
- Excessive panting
- Increased heart rate
- Confusion or disorientation
- Bright red gums
- Body temperature 104 or higher
- Collapsing, seizures, or even coma
DON’T leave your dog in the car. Of all the risk factors, this one you can control. Never, ever leave your dog in the car on a warm day. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the windows down or you have parked in the shade. A car is a giant oven when the AC is not on.
DON’T assume your backyard is safe. Shade may not be enough to keep your dog cool. Fences can block breezes at your dog’s level. Concrete can be a danger to your dog since it can get hot! If you can’t hold your bare hand to the surface for seven seconds, your dog shouldn’t be on it either!
DON’T think because your dog is still playing, they’re okay! Some dogs are so focused on whatever they are doing that they aren’t paying attention to their bodies. They will keep playing, especially if they are having fun! Sometimes, you should intervene with cool-down breaks to keep them safe.
DON’T assume your dog is okay because other dogs are. For example, If you’re visiting a new warmer climate with your dog, you can’t gauge if your dog is happy and safe because all the other dogs at the park are okay. They live there and are acclimated. Your dog has a different tolerance level than every other dog, based on their medical history and even their breed.
DON’T wait to get medical attention. Some of the damage done by heatstroke isn’t obvious right away. Even if you’ve cooled your dog down and they seem to be acting normal, take them to the vet for testing.
DON’T give your dog aspirin to try to reduce their temperature. It can lead to other problems.
DO schedule your physical activities, especially intense ones like playtime or running, to the cool parts of the day in the early morning or dusk.
DO Bring water for your dog. Don’t forget to bring a bowl too. Some dogs don’t like to drink out of your hands.
DO use dog-safe sunscreen, especially on your pink-skinned or light-furred dogs. Their exposed skin can burn just like yours. They can even develop skin cancer. If you should be wearing sunscreen, so should your dog!
DO be aware of your dog’s tolerance levels. Some breeds are better with the heat than others. Short-muzzled and double-coated dogs are at higher risk. Young puppies and older or overweight dogs can also have difficulty adapting.
DO take precautions when traveling with your dog. Even riding in the car can lead to too much sun exposure through the windows. Be aware of where they are and how much they have been in the sun. The same thing can apply on a boat with the sun reflecting off the water. Make sure your pet has access to shade and lots of water while out and about.
DO encourage your dog to play in the water on hot days. It’s a relief to humans, and it’s a relief to your favorite four-legged friend too. Water play with a hose, sprinkler, or wading pool can be just as much fun for your dog as it is for you. If they aren’t interested in that activity, you can drape a wet towel or cloth over them.
It’s easy to know when it gets hot outside. If you are concerned about the heat, you have double the reason to be cautious with your dog when it’s hot out. When in doubt, you can always keep your dog inside climate-controlled places. Stay cool out there!