Summer Safety: How to Spot and Prevent Heatstroke in Dogs

Summer Safety: How to Spot and Prevent Heatstroke in Dogs

Summertime means enjoying the warm weather, beaches and lots of outdoor games with your furry friend. It’s a perfect time to strengthen the bond with your fur friend. However, it can also be a perfect time for our pets to overheat.

High temperatures during summer can put your pet at risk of skin and ear infections and possibly heatstroke. When pets are exposed to heat for a long time without water or any other sort of reprieve, their lives become in great danger.

If pets don’t get access to shade or water, they are at risk of becoming dehydrated, which could lead to more serious and fatal conditions like heatstroke or cardiac arrest.

This is why it’s important for all pet parents to be aware of the signs of heatstroke and dehydration, to ensure you get your pet the emergency help they need as soon as possible. To avoid heatstroke in dogs, here are tips to keep in mind while you and your fur pal enjoy the blue skies.

What are the Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs?

Heatstroke is extremely dangerous for pets. If not addressed in time, it can lead to death. Your pet might be battling with heatstroke if you notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Heavy panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Deep red or purple tongue
  • Unconsciousness
  • Profuse salivation
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Excessive thirst

All pets are at risk of suffering from heatstroke. However, older and overweight pets are at a higher risk.

Pets who don’t get enough exercise, have heart and respiratory issues, and are brachycephalic pet breeds are prone to more complications when exposed to heat.

How do You Help Your Pet?

When you notice signs of heatstroke, it’s important to attempt cooling your pet down slowly to avoid shock. You need to first take your pet into a shady spot or inside the house.

Place a cold towel on your pet’s neck and head without covering their eyes, nose and mouth. You can also run cool water on your pet’s body to lower their body temperature. Give your fur friend cool water to drink and see a veterinarian immediately.

In case of dehydration, give your pet fluids and electrolytes. Give them cool water and take them to a cool area immediately. Place a cold towel around their head and neck to prevent heatstroke.

In severe cases of dehydration, take your pet to a veterinarian to get IV fluids to help replenish the lost electrolytes.

What are the Signs of Dehydration?

Dehydration in pets occurs when their body is losing more fluid than it’s being replaced. Pets need water for their bodies to function properly. In fact, water is important for every function in a pet’s body including digestion, lubrication of joints and regulating body temperature.

It’s normal for a pet to lose water throughout the day. This can happen through panting, breathing, urinating and defecating, which is compensated through drinking water.

When a pet’s body comes to a point where the fluid intake does not make up for water loss, the delivery of oxygen throughout the body is affected. This also results in loss of electrolytes like sodium, chloride and potassium. These minerals are important for:

  • Maintaining a balanced PH in the pet’s body
  • Moving nutrients across the pet’s body.
  • Maintaining normal nerve function.
  • Facilitating normal muscle function.

In severe cases of pet dehydration, severe shortage of fluids can lead to organ failure resulting in death. Here are symptoms of dehydration to watch for:

  • Dry and Sticky gums
  • Sunken eyes
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting with or without diarrhoea
  • Reduced energy levels and lethargy
  • Panting
  • Sunken, dry-looking eyes
  • Dry nose
  • Thick saliva

Regardless of how much water you give your pet, if you feel they are dehydrated, take them to a veterinarian right away. Your vet is the best person to determine whether your pet needs just a drink of water.

Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe This Summer

Pets don’t sweat as we do, and this makes it easier for them to easily become overheated. If your pet is dealing with any case of heatstroke or dehydration, this should always be treated as an emergency, and emergency care should be given immediately.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Provide Water and Shade

Pet dehydration is common during summer. Dogs and cats become thirstier during the hot season. Always make sure to provide access to clean water outside and inside the house, and always carry a bottle of water when going outside, just like we do for ourselves.

Also, you can switch from dry to wet food to increase the amount of fluid intake.

As dogs and cats love to sunbathe, make sure to keep them in a shade as often as possible, as direct sunlight can overheat them, leading to heatstroke.

2. Never Leave Your Pet in the Car

Pets (especially dogs) love going on road trips. However, leaving them alone in a parked car would put their lives at risk.

Did you know that parked cars heat up to over 100 degrees? You may think that leaving them for 10 minutes is no big deal. It only takes about six minutes for pets to develop heatstroke inside a car.

Leaving pets alone in a car is dangerous and illegal. So, either go with your pet everywhere when you decide to take them out or just leave them home.

In case you see a pet left in a car alone, look for the owner ASAP or call the police. Taking action immediately can save a pet’s life.

3. Apply Sunscreen

Believe it or not, pets too get sunburned, especially those with short and light coats. Just like us, sunburn hurts and can lead to cancer.

In case you are planning to spend time under the sun, make sure to apply pet sunscreen on the least hair-covered spots like the nose, stomach and ears.

4. Don’t Shave Your Pet

You may think shaving your pet during Summer will help control overheating. Your pet’s coat is naturally designed to keep pets warm during Winter and cool during Summer.

You can trim your pet’s fur up to an inch of hair but never a clean shave. This will help protect your pet’s skin from sunburns.

5. Mind Your Walking Hour

Dog owners are advised to walk their dogs early in the morning or late in the evening when the temperature is not high. Always have a bottle of clean water with you for your fur friend and take breaks in the shade.

6. Keep Your Dog’s Paws Cool

Pets cool off from the paws. When walking your pet during a hot day, keep them off hot surfaces like cement and asphalt. Not only can it burn their paws, but also increase their body temperature, leading to overheating.

Spray your pet with water to help them cool down and reduce the chances of overheating. Also, you can use a wet towel to rub their paws or stomach to help them cool down.

If you cannot walk your dog early in the morning or in the evening, get them doggy boots to protect their paws.

7. Consider Getting a Life Vest

Just like us, pets love cooling off during the hot weather. They enjoy swimming in the pool or ocean. However, you need to be careful as not all dogs are great swimmers. They may not know how to get out of the pool or might be swept away by strong ocean currents.

If you decide to take your dog for a swim, make sure they wear a life vest that has a bright colour to make them visible. Always make sure to keep an eye on your fur friend when you are out swimming.

Summertime comes with a set of dangers for our fur babies. It’s therefore important to be familiar with the risks and be a step ahead. Be familiar with all the warning signs where danger lurks. Contact your vet immediately when you are not sure about your pet’s safety. With this in mind, preparing for Summer in advance will make sure you and your fur friend enjoy the warm days together safely.

Have fun this summer!


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Information Sources

Traveling with dogs https://agriculture.vic.gov.au/livestock-and-animals/animal-welfare-victoria/dogs/legal-requirements-for-dog-owners/travelling-with-dogs

Keeping your pet safe during the heat https://www.rspca.org.au/blog/2021/keeping-your-pet-safe-during-heat

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