As temperatures begin to rise, a common issue that all pet owners should be aware of is heatstroke. Heatstroke occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature and most often occurs when the body has been exposed to hot temperatures over a prolonged period of time. Since dogs don’t have the same sweat mechanism as humans, they are far more susceptible to heatstroke.
The most common causes of heatstroke in dogs are the result of a pet parent mistake. Leaving a pet in an unattended car, forgetting to provide water and shade outdoors, or excessive exercise on hot days are the leading reasons pets suffer heat stroke.
To prevent your pet from getting heatstroke, remember that hydration is key! When a dog loses body fluid faster than they can replace it, they will suffer from dehydration. Dehydration greatly increases chances of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. You can read more about hydration and heat protection here.
It is always a better choice to prevent heatstroke in the first place, but knowing the symptoms can help save your pet’s life if a mistake is made. The most telling signs include heavy panting, heavy breathing, lethargy, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding, and bruising on the skin or gums. Less obvious symptoms could involve a fever, lack of urine, rapid pulse, and muscle tremors.
If you suspect that your pet is suffering from heatstroke the first thing to do is call your veterinarian or closest emergency animal hospital and let them know what happened and that you are on the way. While doing so, immediately remove your dog from the heat. The best ways you can take care of your dog post-heat stroke is providing a surplus of cold water along with cooling your dog off with cold-damp towels.
Any hot environment can cause heat stroke in any breed of dog, however, some dogs are more prone to heatstroke than others. Dogs with thick fur, short noses, and brachycephalic breeds (flat-faced dogs such as pugs, boxers, and bulldogs) are the most at risk. As a pet parent, you are in charge of your pet’s health, which is an amazing privilege and tremendous responsibility. The best summer yet with your pup is within reach, just be sure to stay cool!
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Written by Gracie Butler
Animal Care Foundation
Providing elderly and disabled community members access to veterinary care for their beloved pet.