Many dog owners believe that because they would never leave their beloved pet alone in a hot car, their four-legged friend isn’t at risk of experiencing heat stroke. In fact, dogs can quickly develop heat stroke simply from playing outdoors in the sun on a hot day.
Because a dog’s method of cooling himself relies on convection, the air around him must be cooler than he is in order to allow him to cool down. As you play outdoors with your dog this summer, be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat stroke as well as the common risk factors and the steps you can take to prevent the illness.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke
Heat stroke can onset quickly in dogs during hot summer weather, and it is important that you are aware of the symptoms that your dog is beginning to overheat in order to help them avoid developing a serious–or even deadly–case of heat stroke. It is characterized by elevated body temperature, but this symptom is not always easy to spot immediately. Heavy panting and rapid breathing are often some of the first visible signs, as are excessive thirst and excessive drooling.
You may also notice that your dog’s eyes begin to look glazed, that his tongue and gums become bright or deep red, and that he is visibly weaker. His pulse and heartbeat will also become more rapid.
As it becomes more serious, your dog may beginning staggering and stumbling, eventually collapsing. Seizures or unconsciousness are signs of an extremely serious heat stroke. By the time that your dog’s temperature has reached 109 degree Fahrenheit, it is life-threatening.
Risk Factors for Heat Stroke
Certain dogs are more likely to develop heat stroke, and knowing which risk factors your dog has can help you spot the onset of the illness more quickly. In general, both very young and very old dogs are more susceptible, as are dogs that are obese. Certain breeds are also at greater risk of developing heat stroke, including breeds with short noses and flat faces.
Dogs with heavy or thick coats, particularly in hot climates to which they are not well adapted, are more likely to experience it. A number of health issues such as heart or lung disease, hyperthyroidism and previous heat-related illness can increase the risk of heat stroke. Lastly, dogs who do not drink enough water are more likely to become overheated and potentially experience the symptoms.
Preventing Heat Stroke
One of the easiest ways to reduce the risk is making sure that your dog has clean, fresh water available at all times. Make sure that your dog has access to shade if they are playing outdoors during warm weather. If possible, take your dog outdoors only during the coolest parts of the day, typically first thing in the morning or after the sun goes down–and never keep your dog outdoors once the temperature tops 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Most importantly: never leave any pet unattended in a parked car.
If an emergency occurs, don’t hesitate to contact Cornerstone Animal Hospital at (417) 623-3080!