Summer Heat and Your Dog
Summer is here! As the temperatures rise, it is important to monitor your dog’s health and behavior.
Heat exhaustion (body temp of 104° to 106°) can be serious and has the potential to progress to heat stroke (body temp over 106°), but there are many warning signs that your dog is getting overheated. Early warning signs include restlessness, heavy panting, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased respiration, heart rate, and salivation. In more advanced stages, your dog may become weak and seem to stagger. It may gasp or wheeze and its gum color will become progressively darker. Advanced hyperthermia, or heat stroke, can even lead to seizures, coma, and death.
There are many measures you can take to ensure this does not happen to your dog. If possible, take your dog for walks in the morning or evening rather than during the heat of the day. If you must walk a distance on hot days, be prepared. Always carry water and give your dog frequent, brief water breaks. Note that allowing an overheated dog to tank up on water can increase the risk of bloat, a life-threatening condition in which the dog’s stomach twists and distends with gas.
If your walking routine involves long stretches of asphalt or brick, consider using mesh booties or paw wax to help protect your dog’s pads. Do not use unventilated booties, since the paw pads are essential for temperature regulation.
If you think your dog is becoming overheated, move into a shady area or inside a building as soon as possible. Then, cool your dog by applying cool water to your dog’s paws, belly, and inner thighs. If available, try soaking a towel in cool water and draping it over your dog’s belly. You can also spray your dog down with cool water if a hose or shower is available. It is important to use cool, not ice-cold, water.
If possible, take your dog’s temperature rectally and if it is above 104°F, transport to the vet immediately. If you have someone with you, have them try to cool your dog while you drive. If the temperature is 104°F or less, begin cooling your dog and take the temperature every five minutes during the cooling process. Once it drops to 103°, dry your dog thoroughly and get them to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet can monitor your dog’s temperature and hydration and ensure that there are no complications.
It should go without saying, but never—ever—leave your dog unattended in a car. Temperatures inside a car can rise quickly, and leaving your dog even for a few minutes can potentially be deadly.