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Protecting Your Dog During The Dog Days Of Summer

By: Sonia Singh

While we’re struggling to handle the heat, we may forget that our dogs are suffering like we are.  Sadly, this too often leads to dog heat stroke – a disease that strikes quickly and is often fatal. 

Luckily, dog heat stroke is 100% preventable.  Here‘s what you need to know to protect your dog during the dog days of summer.

What is it?
Just like in humans, dog heat stroke is extreme overheating.  It happens when the dog cannot cool itself down. 

Unlike humans, who sometimes feel like we’re sweating from every inch of skin, dogs can only relieve heat through two parts of their body.  They release heat by panting and through the pads of their paws.  That’s it.  If dogs are left out in the heat, or in a hot car, they quickly heat up beyond what their body can handle.  It also happens when dogs exert themselves physically on warm days.

A normal temperature for a dog is about 101 degrees, plus or minus a degree.  When their body temperature hits 104 or above, that’s heat stroke territory.  The heat doesn’t just make them uncomfortable – it starts to disintegrate their body, from cells to muscles and organs.  That’s why immediate treatment is so critical. 

Dogs with short snouts (known as brachycephalics) like Bulldogs, Pugs, or Mastiffs, are at higher risk than dogs with longer snouts.  So are dogs that are overweight or who are recovering from surgery or illness.

What does it look like?
If your dog shows the symptoms below, he may be suffering from heat stroke.  Watch out for:

•    Heavy panting
•    Thick saliva
•    Heavy drooling and/or foaming at the mouth
•    Dark red gums
•    Diarrhea and/or vomiting
•    High temperature (105 degrees and above)
•    Dizziness and disorientation
•    Unwilling or unable to stand up

If your dog has heat stroke, what should you do?
Quick recognition and treatment will give your dog the best chance of surviving.

First, move the dog to a cool area.  Find a place that has cool air, is shaded, and doesn’t have a hot surface that will keep your dog’s paws from cooling off.

Then, pour cool water on your dog.  Dogs have blood vessels just beneath their skin, so cool water on their skin will help cool their blood and the rest of their body.  Do not use cold water – it may cause the dog’s blood vessels to constrict and slow down cooling. 

Try to give your dog small amounts of cool water.  If he doesn’t want to drink, that’s normal.  Don’t force it.

Finally, call your vet.  (If your vet isn’t available, call your nearest emergency vet.)  A vet will examine your dog for signs of internal damage from the heat.  They can also give your dog fluids intravenously to speed up rehydration, and provide oxygen as well.  Dog heat stroke can lead to additional illnesses and complications, so your vet will check for them and provide treatment as needed.  Because heat stroke can have complications even after your dog has cooled down, it’s a step you can’t afford to skip. 

How do you prevent heat stroke?
Here’s the great news:  Prevention is easy!  Keep these do’s and don’ts in mind to protect your dog from heat:
•    DO make sure your dog has a cool place to stay with plenty of shade and water. 
•    DON’T leave your dog in the car.  Even with windows cracked, a car quickly heats up like an oven.  A few minutes easily turns into too long, so it’s best to not leave them cooking in your car. 
•    DO leave your dog at home if it’s too hot and he doesn’t need to be with you.  Last summer, a Phoenix movie theatre owner took his dog to the theatre on a 104-degree day – and he left her in his car.  She would have been safer at home than in his hot car. 
•    DON’T encourage physical activity during hot times.  Some dogs push themselves too hard and don’t know when to stop.  Plan exercise for cooler times of day, like early morning or late evening.
•    DO use supplies like a cooling dog mat if your dog is at risk of heat stroke.  They help regulate dogs’ body temperature just like pouring water does.

That’s the nuts and bolts of dog heat stroke – what it is, how it happens, and what you can do about it.  This dangerous illness is so easily prevented, there’s no reason for any dog to get it.

Please share this with other dog lovers – it may save a life.

Sonia Singh is a dog supplies expert.  She writes about the big dog lifestyle on the Dog Blog at

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