Dogs don’t have very efficient heat loss mechanisms. They only have a few sweat glands on their paws and mainly regulate their body temperature by panting. (The normal body temperature for a dog is 38.5 degrees Celsius). Heat Stroke occurs when the surrounding environmental temperature is so high, that a dog cannot regulate its own body temperature and over-heats. Heat stroke is a very serious condition and can become an emergency very quickly.
Certain dogs are more likely to develop Heat Stroke:
- Dogs with short, flat faces like Bull Dogs and Pugs
- Dogs with thick hair coats
- Very old and very young dogs
- Dogs exercising in the heat, especially if the air is also humid
- Overweight dogs
- Dogs without access to shade and water
- Dogs locked into cars on hot days (even in the shade)
In addition to excessive panting, dogs with Heat Stroke will show a combination of the following symptoms:
- Dry, tacky gums
- Excessive drooling
- Depression and weakness
- Coma and Death
Treatment of Heat Stroke:
This is an emergency. Heat Stroke can lead to multiple organ failure, so always err on the side of caution!
- Move your dog into the shade or out of the hot environment.
- Rinse your dog with cool (never ice cold) water, then gently fan the damp dog. Using ice cold water is dangerous, as it drops the body temperature too quickly. Small dogs can even be rinsed with luke-warm water and then fanned.
- Gently massage the dog’s legs to promote circulation.
- Make cool drinking water available.
- Take the dog’s temperature every 5 minutes and continue the cool water treatment until the temperature has dropped below 39.5 degrees Celsius.
- Contact your veterinarian immediately and take your dog down to the veterinary practice for additional treatment as soon as possible. Affected dogs often need intra-venous fluids and additional supportive care.
Avoiding Heat Stroke:
Prevention is, as always, better than cure.
Avoid Heat Stroke by ensuring that your dog always has a cool, shady spot to rest and cold water to drink. Avoid exercise on hot, humid days and never leave a dog unattended in a closed car (even if you are parked in the shade). Always be aware of the risk factors associated with breed, age and weight and watch these high risk dogs carefully on hot days.
Let us continue to enjoy these long, hot summer days with our dogs and stay cool!