by Samuel Bennett, FCAS Volunteer
Summer is here, and many of us will be enjoying it with our furry friends. But just like humans, dogs can get overheated, which can lead to heat stroke. Since dogs have fur coats and can’t sweat, it’s important to take precautions so they won’t get too hot.
The best thing to do, of course, is to keep your dog out of the heat so heat stroke doesn’t happen. The most common cause of heat stroke among dogs is being left in a car in hot weather. Never leave your dog in a parked car during the summer, not even with the windows down or if you’re in the shade. Always make sure they have water available – you can even put ice in it on hot days. Avoid exercising your dog too hard or leaving them outside in the heat, and make sure that they have shade available at all times. A groomer can also cut your dog’s fur short for the summer. And of course, you’ll want to keep the inside of your house cool, so use air conditioning.
Fortunately, heat stroke has certain signs that we can recognise. You should take action if your dog is panting or breathing unusually heavily or has an increased heart rate, or is shaking, collapsing, salivating excessively, or having bloody vomit or diarrhea. If the dog’s temperature is 104° Fahrenheit or above, they’re overheated.
The first thing to do if your dog overheats is to cool them down to a safe temperature. You can spray them with water or place wet towels on their back, or turn on a fan. Retake your dog’s temperature afterwards until it’s about 104° F, then take them to the vet immediately. If they don’t get proper treatment, they can face organ failure, heart disease, or seizures, and these complications may not show up for days.
You should also be aware that certain dogs are more vulnerable to heat stroke than others – if they’re older, overweight, have thick coats, or belong to breeds with short faces like pugs or bulldogs, overheating can be a greater risk. If a dog has had heat stroke before, they’re at a heightened risk for experiencing it again.
We want to have fun this summer, and our dogs should be able to join us. That’s why it’s important to know how to keep your dog safe when it’s hot outside.