With summer and soaring temperatures well and truly here, it’s important to remember that pets feel the heat as much as humans, if not more. Heat stroke in dogs is possible and can be dangerous, sometimes even life-threatening. If a dog is showing signs of overheating, vet care must be sought immediately.
What is Heat Stroke?
An elevated body temperature above normal is often indicative that a fever is present, but it can also be caused by an overly hot or humid environment. This condition is referred to as hyperthermia (not to be confused with hypothermia) but is more commonly known as heat stroke. Severe hyperthermia affects nearly every internal organ in the body and requires immediate treatment.
An early indicator of hyperthermia is that a dog will appear distressed, restless or lethargic and will pant excessively. As the condition worsens, they may vomit or have diarrhoea. They may drool large amounts of saliva from their nose and/or mouth and may convulse or become unsteady on their feet. Their gums may begin to change to blue, purple or bright red in colour, which is a signal that the dog is breathing an inadequate amount of oxygen.
How to Avoid Heat Stroke
Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid heat stroke and keep dogs safe, happy and healthy this summer when following these handy hints.
- Don’t leave dogs in the car. Without adequate ventilation, cars heat up extremely quickly.
- If the ground outside is too hot for humans to walk on, it’s too hot for dogs.
- Don’t take them for a walk during the hottest parts of the day.
- If not at home all day, make sure to provide access to shade, shelter and plenty of water.
First Aid for Heat Stroke
If a dog is showing any of the symptoms mentioned above and it’s possible they could be suffering from heat stroke, it’s imperative to follow first aid advice. The most important thing to remember is to act quickly and start cooling the dog as soon as possible.
- Before anything else, remove the dog from the environment where the hyperthermia occurred.
- Move the dog to a shaded or cool area and direct a fan onto them. Aim the fan away from the dog’s face and mouth to avoid excessive consumption of air.
- Begin to cool the body by placing cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits and in the underbelly and groin region. Additionally, wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water (not cold water). Direct the fan onto these areas to speed up the evaporative cooling process.
- Offer fresh, cool water (not cold water) if the dog is alert and showing an interest in drinking.
- Contact the closest vet and take the dog to the clinic right away.
What Not to Do
There are also several critically important things to avoid when a dog may have heat stroke.
- Don’t use ice-cold water.
- Don’t overcool the dog or completely cover them with towels.
- Don’t force the dog to drink water or force it into their mouths.
- Don’t leave them unattended for any length of time.