On warm or hot days, it is important to take extra precautions to prevent your dog from overheating.  Dogs only have a few sweat glands in their foot pads, so they rely on panting to cool down.  Older dogs, overweight dogs and puppies are the most vulnerable; but even young, otherwise healthy dogs can succumb to heat stroke.  Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition for dogs that can lead to collapse, vomiting, diarrhea, and progress to seizures and cardiac arrest.

Warning signs of heat stroke:

  • Excessive panting or erratic breathing
  • Less responsive to commands than usual
  • Sluggishness
  • Stumbling or dizziness
  • Hypersalivation
  • Vomiting or diarrhea (may be bloody)
  • Gums that are bright red, pale or bluish in color

Prevention:

  • NEVER leave a dog in a car, even on seemingly mild (60o-70oF or less) days. Temperatures inside a car can easily rise 40oF within minutes on sunny days despite leaving the windows cracked open.  Humid days also increase the likelihood of heat stroke.
  • Don’t let a dog over-exert during play. Dogs can easily play too hard or too long unless you intervene, even on days that are not excessively warm.
  • Always allow access to fresh water.
  • Schedule walks for cooler times of the day and stay in shady areas.
  • On hot days, walk dogs on grassy areas rather than asphalt and concrete which absorb heat and can cause second degree burns on paw pads.

Elmo cooling in the shade

What to do if you suspect heat stroke:

  • Move out of the sun or hot area immediately and relocate to a shaded or air-conditioned location.
  • Start cooling measures and take the dog to a veterinarian immediately. To cool the dog, spray them with cool (not COLD) water or place sopping wet towels soaked in cool water over the dogs’ body. Turn the air-conditioning on in the car or open the windows to create a breeze while driving to the veterinary clinic. It is important to expose a dog to cool, NOT cold water or ice as the latter two can shock the body and lead to core body heat retention.
  • Any dog that is suspected to be affected by heat stroke should be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible, even if they seem to have fully recovered from the episode. Heat stroke can cause serious damage to internal organs and requires prompt treatment.

For more information on Canine Companions for Independence, visit cci.org.