By Henry Cerny, DVM, MS
During the warm months of the year, dogs can overheat and the condition is referred to as heat stroke. Dogs don’t sweat all over their bodies like people do. Their primary way of regulating body temperature is through respiration (panting). Heat stroke can occur in dogs under several conditions such as being left in a car in hot weather, strenuous exercise in hot humid weather, and being left out in the sun without shade or water.
Symptoms of heat stroke in dogs
The first signs of heat stroke are heavy panting and trouble or labored breathing. Other signs that may be seen are excess salivation, dry tacky pale gums, weakness, confusion, vomiting, diarrhea, and bleeding. The condition may progress to collapse, seizures, coma, or death.
Prevention of heat stroke in dogs
The best way to prevent heat stroke is to make sure your dog has access to fresh water, adequate shade, and can retreat to a cool or air-conditioned area when necessary. Allowing your dog to become accustomed to hot weather and exercising them during the cooler times of the morning or evening is recommended.
Treatment of heat stroke in dogs
When a dog suffers heat stroke it is a medical emergency and you should seek veterinary help as soon as possible. Depending on the circumstance it may be necessary to cool your dog down before you can get to a veterinarian. This can be done by pouring cool or tepid water (not ice cold) over the body. The additional use of a fan blowing cool air will also help.
It is important to note that dogs that suffer heat stroke can have delayed complications that may lead to death. But if you know what to watch for you can keep your dog safe.
Henry Cerny has served on the board of the Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association. He practices at Yankee Hill Veterinary Hospital, in Lincoln.
What do you do to make sure your dogs are comfortable on a hot day? Share your tips with us in the comments.