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Hot Dawg! The Risks and Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs

Posted by Jessica McCarthy on

It’s gorgeous February in Cape Town and we’re sure your dogs are loving being outdoors!  But don’t forget the sun can be harmful.  Pooches with light skin can get sunburnt, and all dogs are at risk for heatstroke, which is just as dangerous for them as for humans.  Short-nosed and heavy-coated dogs are even more prone than others.  And your pooches might not tell you they’re struggling if they’re having too much fun!  It’s important to familiarise yourself with the signs, know how to avoid it, and what to do if it happens.

For starters, let’s just talk about managing heat in general, and then we’ll go on to talk heatstroke…

How Dog’s Bodies Regulate Heat

Dogs don’t sweat like we do.  Rather their bodies release heat through panting, and through their noses and paw pads.

Their internal heating system reads their body temperature in a few ways, one of the most important being through their backs.  It’s important that your dog’s body can get an accurate read so it knows how much to compensate, so it’s very important that if you’re trying to “help” your dog cool down, you don’t put water or cooling pads on their backs, as this can confuse their internal thermometer.  Rather give them a cooling pad or wet towel to lie on, or put water on their bellies or paws to help cool them down.

3 Summer Safety Guides

to Minimise Risk of Heatstroke

Some important tips to bear in mind – these are a good idea for humans too!

  1. Don’t go for walks or hikes in the midday heat. Rather stick to early mornings or late afternoons so that the intensity of the sun’s heat is gentler
  2. Even at the “right” times of day, try opt for places that offer shady respite at points along the walk, or even a spot of water to splash in
  3. Always carry drinking water for your dogs as well as yourself. Don’t rely on finding natural water sources as these are often dry in summer.  A portable water bowl can be a helpful addition to your dog’s hiking gear!

Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs

Keep an eye out for these and if you spot any please take them seriously as heatstroke can have awful health consequences.

  • Pooch is panting excessively, or for a worrying length of time (remember panting is normal especially when they’re hot, but you’ll know your dog well enough to gauge whether it is out of control)
  • Doggie’s tongue or gums are red
  • Doggie’s tongue or gums become dry, the saliva becomes thick, or they even froth at the mouth
  • Your dog is staggering or even collapses
  • Your dog can’t or won’t get up
  • Upset tummy, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Heart rate increases
  • Your dog’s body temperature is between 40 and 43 degrees

If you see some or all of these signs after a spot of playtime in the sun, call your nearest emergency vet, and try these things…

What to Do if Your Dog Gets Heatstroke

Even if you try these tips and your dog seems better, please get them checked out by a vet immediately as well, as not all of the impact will be visible from the outside…

  • Obviously, get your dog out of the sun immediately
  • Help your dog start to cool down by putting wet cloths on the paw-pads and around the head. Do not cover your dog’s whole body with wet towels as this can actually trap the heat in and also confuse their own heating-cooling system
  • Never use ice or iced water as this can actually cause their blood vessels to constrict which will slow rather than speed up the cooling process
  • Offer your dog cool water to drink, but don’t force them or let them drink excessively for a long period. Rather let them drink smaller amounts often.
  • If you’re using a thermometer, stop aiding their cooling when they get down to 39 degrees – their own bodies can handle it from there. Rather use your energy to get them to a vet to be checked out!

Wishing you and your dogs wonderful, safe Summer playtime in the beautiful outdoors!  Hot tip from Mochi: eating your dinner while it’s still partially frozen, or indulging in a little bone broth ice lolly, are great ways to cool down on a Summer day…

 

Jessica McCarthy

Jess is a founding member of Natural Born Pets, and has been a writer and an animal lover all her life. A Cape Town gal and a lover of nature, the mission to bring proudly local and naturally healthy living to your pets is very dear to Jess's heart. Whether she's researching and writing non-fiction articles and social posts, devising full-length plays or short stories, or writing one of her infamously long and colourful emails to friends, Jess is happiest with a pen in her hand and a pet on her lap.