How to prevent heat stroke in dogs this summer

Keeping dogs hydrated during a heat wave is just one step in avoiding a potentially fatal heat stroke - Photo by UnSplash +.

Knowing the warning signs can be incredibly important for pet owners

With a heat wave baking parts of the country, it's never been more important to make sure your pets are safe, hydrated and healthy.  

To help dog owners identify the signs of heat stroke in their pets, and also help prevent heat stroke, Dr. Julie Buzby, an integrative veterinarian, shared her best tips with ConsumerAffairs. 

What are the signs of heat stroke in dogs? 

Being able to identify heat stroke in your pet is probably the number one thing pet owners should be aware of. According to Buzby, these are the primary symptoms associated with heat stroke: 

  • Heavy panting

  • Excessive drooling with thick saliva

  • Blue, brown, pale, or bright red gums

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea (which may be bloody)

  • Disorientation

  • Wobbling, stumbling, loss of coordination 

  • Collapse

  • Seizures

What to do if your dog is showing signs of heat stroke

Buzby’s top piece of advice if your dog is showing signs of heat stroke: don’t treat them at home. Get them to the vet as soon as possible. 

“If you think your dog may be developing signs of heat stroke, move the dog to a cool, shady area and wet your dog with cool water,” she said. “Do not use cold water, and do not cover your dog with cold towels, which can trap in heat. 

“Immediately drive to the vet with the air-conditioning on full blast,” Buzby said. “Time is of the essence when it comes to treating heat stroke.” 

Knowing how to prevent heat stroke

With temperatures on the rise, and most of summer still ahead, it’s important for dog owners to know how to keep their dogs safe. Buzby shared her top four tips to prevent heat stroke in dogs: 

1. Do not exercise dogs in the heat. Walks should be in the early morning, before the heat of the day, at twilight, or after dark.

2. Bring dogs inside on hot days. Dogs who enjoy spending time outside in the yard should always have access to shade and fresh, cool water. When the temperature climbs, dogs must be kept indoors, without exception. 

3. Never leave a dog confined in a car in warm weather. Even with the windows cracked, the temperature inside the car can climb to life-threatening very quickly. 

4. Know how to cool down an overheated dog. If your dog is starting to become overheated or is suffering from heat exhaustion (the stage before heat stroke), it is important to recognize the signs and take measures to safely help cool your dog down. 

Heat can be more of a problem for some breeds

Buzby also explained that some breeds are more susceptible to heat stroke than others. Dogs with “flat” faces – pugs, bulldogs, French bulldogs, etc. – which are known as “brachycephalic breeds,” as well as thick-coated breeds (Huskies and Malamutes), and overweight dogs are all more likely to get heat stroke. 

She also said that dogs with laryngeal paralysis, tracheal collapse, or other conditions that  affect the airways are at a higher risk of heat stroke, and dog owners should be especially vigilant. 

“Since these dogs cannot pant well and ventilate appropriately, they can quickly become distressed,” Dr. Buzby said. “Vigilance and prevention is essential.”

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