Warmer Weather and the Dangers of Canine Heat Stroke

Warmer Weather and the Dangers of Canine Heat Stroke

At a Glance:

  • What is canine heatstroke?
  • Hot-Fido Facts and Stats you can use and site facts from this RSPCA article
  • The Danger Signs
  • What to do if fur kiddo is in the red zone!
  • Temperature Warning Guide …
  • Planning all the cool things for pupper
  • Summary: Saving your BFF from Summer

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With temperatures climbing across the country as we move into the summer months, keeping our pups comfortable and cool is becoming more and more important! Read on to learn about the causes, risks and ways to identify an overheating pooch and how we can take steps to make sure that our fur babies are still living their best, enriched lives without being unnecessarily exposed to extreme, dangerous temperatures.

According to PETA, there were 58 reported pet deaths due to heatstroke with an additional 469 pets rescued before suffering the same fate in 2022 – and many additional cases may have gone unreported.

It’s vital to recognize that your pup is overheating and remove them from a situation in which they’re at risk of suffering from heat stroke before it’s too late. The UK Kennel Club reports that 1 in 7 dogs taken to the vet with heatstroke do not make it, but the chances for survival increase significantly when owners are able to identify the early signs.

How to tell if your dog is overheating: 

Image of dog overheating, symptoms of dog canine heatstroke

Heatstroke may seem like something that your pet can’t fall victim to during quick stints outdoors, however it’s important to keep in mind that even when we may feel comfortable with the current temperature, our dogs may still be at risk of overheating. While our bodies produce sweat when we are hot as a cooling method, dogs cannot sweat and instead pant, which is their method of evaporative cooling to lower their body temperature. We as owners easily become accustomed to our dogs panting and as such, it can easily be overlooked as a sign that they are in danger of overheating. 

Signs that your dog may be overheating include excessive panting, labored breathing, excessive drooling, bright red or pale gums, lethargy, or disorientation. If not addressed, your dog can begin vomiting, collapse or even develop seizures and/or tremors. If you suspect your dog is beginning to overheat, time is of the essence. Work quickly to gradually lower your dogs temperature to ensure their well-being and even survival. The following steps could save your dog’s life in the event of a heatstroke:

  • Get your dog out of the sun and into a cool, shaded area 
  • If you have COOL (not cold water as this will lower your dog’s temperature too quickly and may lead to shock) or room temperature water, pour some on your dog before offering them small amounts at a time to drink
  • Continue until your dog’s breathing calms down
  • Avoid using wet towels or pouring water on your dog’s head as these methods may do more harm than good 
  • Once you are able to cool your dog down, seek veterinary care immediately. For dogs that suffered unconsciousness during their heatstroke this is extremely urgent 

How can I tell when it’s too hot for my dog? The answer to that question depends on a variety of factors including your fur babies' breed, weight, size, age, the humidity, and the amount of physical exertion that’s occurring. 

Refer to the below chart based on information obtained from Fetch Pet Insurance to get an idea of when your dog may be at risk of overheating based on their physical attributes: 

dog overheating temperature chart by size, depicting which high temperatures are harmful to dogs

Note that this chart is not set in stone and that every dog is different. Where some dogs might be comfortable, others may struggle with the temperature. Brachycephalic breeds, senior and overweight pets are particularly more susceptible to developing heatstroke, even in temperatures on the lower end of the chart. Ultimately, it’s up to us as pet parents to monitor our fur babies for the signs of overheating and make decisions in their best interest to keep them comfortable and safe. After all, we know them best. 

So.. how can I prevent my dog from overheating? Proactive planning for your pooch is key to managing the hottest days ahead of us. Heatstroke developed as a result of exercise in high temperatures has been identified as just as likely to kill as heatstroke from vehicle confinement based on information from a UK report. Managing outdoor time and timings, utilizing some helpful tools and cooler-focused nutrition, and focusing on indoor enrichment activities are some ways to keep our pupper's cool and safe for summer.

It is of course not possible as a pet parent to keep your dog indoors 24/7, even when the weather isn’t ideal. During the warmer months, we recommend walking your dog earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon or evening. Sunrise or sunset and the hours that follow make for gorgeous walks where you and your pup(s) can comfortably enjoy your surroundings before and after the heat of the day takes over. (Insert stock image of dog and owner walking in sunset or sunrise.) Limiting backyard or outdoor potty and sniff breaks to 5 minutes is also a great way to prevent your pet from overheating. The less time they’re exposed to these harsh temperatures, the less at risk they are. 

For those times when getting out early or late just isn’t possible and you’ve got to be outdoors in the higher temperatures, there are still precautions that you can take for your pets safety! Always carrying enough water for you and your pup to stay hydrated is vital. Whether it’s a collapsible dog bowl or a retractable dog water bottle, always carry the tools necessary to provide water to your pup. Other tools, such as reflective, UV protective umbrellas to walk with, or static tents, and canopies also work to keep pets cool and keep the sun off of them under these circumstances. Dog booties are a tool that your pup can be trained to use on scalding black top or pavement, but we always remind folks that if the ground temperature is too hot for a dog’s paw pads, it is more than likely too hot for pupper to be outside for too long at all without risking heatstroke.

In addition to shorter potty walks and scheduling around the heat of the day, how do we offer our fur kids energy outlets?

Indoor enrichment! A great  way to prevent your dog from overheating and to channel a dog’s energy is to find or create fun indoor activities like puzzles, brain busters, games, or obstacles. Take the Arf Pets Treat Dispenser, for example a game that relies on teaching your dog to press a button in order to retrieve a treat. For added physical activity, try placing the button farther away from the treat dispenser and watch your dog have a blast as they learn to run back and forth! 

Other fun brain games to play indoors are the “Find It” game (with treats or hiding yourself!) To play this game, begin by teaching your dog a ‘place’ command. Have your dog stay in place while you hide treats (or yourself!) and allow them to sniff them out. Sniffing is a wonderful mental exercise for dogs and has the potential to tire your dog out just as much as a walk might. Next time the temperatures are too high for you to comfortably take your dog out for a walk, try introducing a snuffle mat and letting them forage for their food or treats. You can even  simply roll and fold treats into a large towel for their snouts to hunt for. You’ll be surprised by how long such a simple activity can engage your pup! 

All in all, with temperatures climbing across the country as we move into the summer months, keeping our pups comfortable and cool is becoming more and more important! Prevention is the best way to avoid dangerous overheating for our pets. Always be mindful of the temperature and weather conditions, plan for cooler times of the day and/or shorten outings, and prepare with water, shady cover and know the signs of overheating in your fur family members.

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