In hot climates, dogs are as vulnerable as humans when it comes to suffering from heat exhaustion, which can lead to permanent organ damage or death from heat stroke. While humans have an excellent temperature regulatory system (cooling their bodies by sweating), dog’s don’t sweat to cool off. Their main methods for temperature regulation are panting and evaporative cooling provided by breathing through a long nose. This puts them at extreme risk for heat exhaustion when temperatures rise during the summer months.
Dogs that are older, have a wooly coat, or are flat-faced (brachycephalic) are especially vulnerable to heat, as these attributes prevent a dog’s temperature regulatory system from functioning efficiently.
Make Preventing Heat Exhaustion a Priority
It’s up to dog owners to be mindful of the weather and take steps to protect their dogs. Dogs often don’t have enough sense to pass up a game of fetch, a chance to hike, or go for a run on hot days. While exerting themselves in hot weather, a dog’s natural cooling system can’t keep up, and heat exhaustion, which leads to heat stroke, can occur quickly.
The proper way to keep dogs cool is simply to provide them lots of shade and water and moving air if possible. At Cascade Pet Camp we shift our main playgroup and activity time to early morning and late evening hours when the temperatures are cooler. For mid-day breaks, Camp Counselors limit the amount of time dogs are active, and we provide sprinklers for the dogs to run through and kiddy pools for them to splash in. When they return to their rooms, we have lots of fans moving air which works to evaporate the water on their coats and keep them cool.
Keep in mind that temperatures in vehicles can quickly reach fatal levels, even in the Pacific Northwest. Cracking the car windows is not enough. Avoid leaving your dog in the car for any period of time during hot weather.
Signs of Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
Heat exhaustion can occur quickly, and in temperatures as low as 80 degrees. Signs of heat stroke include:
• Excessive panting and heavy rapid breathing.
• Bright red tongue with pale pink or white gums.
• Rapid heart rate.
• Large amount of saliva, with difficulty breathing.
• Disorientation, unresponsiveness to name.
• Vomiting and diarrhea.
If you notice any of these symptoms, take action.
• Immediately move your dog out of the sun and call your veterinarian.
• Place your dog in cool water, or use wet towels on the groin and pads (areas where more skin is exposed.
• Place a fan on your dog so air is moving.
• Monitor your dog’s temperature every 10 minutes until a normal temperature of 102-103 degrees is reached.
• If symptoms are severe, immediately transport your dog to a veterinarian while cooling off your dog.