Dogs & Heat Awareness

Summertime is the season of longer daylight hours, more energy, and vacation hours. It’s also the season when many of us can spend more time with our dogs. In summer, when temperatures become extremely hot and difficult for our pets to handle, we need to remember that they do not process heat the same way we do. Frequently, loving pet parents unknowingly expose their dogs to dangerous and sometimes fatal health issues by not taking precautions. Here are some tips on how you can keep your dog safe this summer, including prevention of and symptoms of heat exhaustion, and a crucial bonus tip!

What Is Heat Exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion (hyperthermia) can occur when your dog’s body temperature rises above a healthy range, and they’re unable to regulate their own body heat. This condition ranges from mild heat exhaustion, which can be treated at home, to severe heat stroke, at which point your pet can lose consciousness, run a high fever, experience organ failure, and unfortunately, even die.

Because dogs primarily pant, rather than sweat, they are much more sensitive to heat than humans are. Luckily, heat exhaustion is easily preventable—even in the dog days of summer.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion

  • Excessive panting or difficulty breathing. If your dog is panting constantly or faster than normal (hyperventilation), they could be overheated. Dogs with flat faces, like pugs, are more susceptible to heat exhaustion, because they cannot pant as efficiently.
  • Dehydration. Signs of dehydration include dry nose, visible tiredness, excessive panting, and sunken eyes.
  • Excessive drooling. Keep an eye out for lots of drool, or drool that is thicker and stickier than usual.
  • Fever. If your dog’s nose is dry and hot, instead of wet and cool, they could have a fever. A body temperature above 103°F is considered abnormal.
  • Bright red, gray, purple, or bluish gums. If your dog’s gums are a different color than normal, they could be dehydrated.
  • Lack of urine. If your pet has trouble producing urine, they could be dehydrated or overheated.
  • Rapid pulse. The easiest way to take your dog’s pulse is to place your hand on their chest near their front elbow joint. If their pulse seems elevated, they could be overheated. (Normal pulse rate depends on the size of your dog—bigger dogs tend to have slower pulses, while small dogs and puppies have very quick pulses.)
  • Muscle tremors. If your dog is shivering or shaking, regardless of outside temperature, it may be caused by heat exhaustion.
  • Lethargy or weakness. Overheating can cause dogs to nap more than normal, or to have difficulty standing or walking.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea. Abnormally soft stool, or stool with blood in it, is a big warning sign for heat exhaustion.
  • Dizziness. If your dog seems to have trouble walking in a straight line or keeps bumping into furniture, they might be lightheaded from dehydration or heat exhaustion.

These are the most common and easily detectable symptoms of heat exhaustion, but there are many more. If your dog is acting at all sick, tired, or otherwise abnormal during the hot summer months, don’t ignore it!

When in doubt, call your local vet. Keeping your dog safe and healthy is the most important thing.

Groups of dogs that are particularly at risk for heatstroke are those with flat faces and snub noses, or brachycephalic dog breeds: Pug, Boxer, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Bulldogs, Mastiff, Boston Terrier, Shih Tzu, and Pekingese are a few examples. Dogs with black or thick coats, like Huskies, are in the high-risk group too. However, it can happen to any dog.

How to Protect your Dog from Possibly Developing Heat-Related Issues

  1. Exercise your dog in the early morning or mid-evening. Going for a run at lunch time can be exhilarating, but it’s not recommended. Additionally, observe your dog during their time outside, cutting sessions short if they seem to be tiring more easily than usual.
  2. During and after exercise, only allow your dog small amounts of water at a time. Drinking large amounts too quickly can lead to problems including bloat. Don’t give them free access to food or water until they are well rested.
  3. If your local meteorologist is warning you about the heat, then all pets should be kept inside. Even if they usually live outside, dates containing excessive heat can be dangerous or even deadly to them too.
  4. If your dog enjoys their days in the fenced-in yard, it is vital they have lots of shade and abundant fresh water. Check on them regularly, because heat stroke can come on fast. A fun cool-down activity for your pup could be playing in a plastic kiddie pool to stay comfortable, while you are present. Also, please be aware that a doghouse in the summer is not shade. It’s an oven! Dog houses are designed to keep heat in, not out.
  5. NEVER EVER leave your dog (or any pet) in a car during hot weather – even for a few minutes. Some people enjoy bringing their dogs along on errands, but leave them in the car. This can be deadly. A little heat outside of the car can quickly make it extremely hot inside. On a summer’s day of only 85 degrees, for example, even keeping the windows slightly open won’t stop the inside temperature from climbing to 104 degrees in 10 minutes, and to 119 degrees in 30 minutes. A dog whose body temperature rises to 107-108 degrees will, within a very short time, suffer irreparable brain damage – or even death.

***BONUS TIP***

When we humans are outside walking around in the hot summer sun, we protect our feet from the scorching asphalt and pavement by wearing something on our feet. Although dogs have thick pads on the bottom of their paws, it can often still be way too hot for them to walk on that asphalt or pavement. Want to know if it’s cool enough for your dog to walk on?

Place the back of your hand firmly against the asphalt or pavement for 7 seconds to verify that it is comfortable enough for your dog to be on. Be sure to use the back of your hand and not your palm.

***If at any time you believe that your dog is experiencing a medical emergency, contact your nearest veterinarian immediately!!!***

Need help with dog training? Please visit my website www.ajswaggintrain.com or call (832) 454-1684. 

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Aaron Jones

Certified Dog Trainer. Dog lover first, and a dog trainer second. I’ve witnessed firsthand the tremendous difference that dog training makes in the relationship between dog and owner. I have been working with dogs and their owners for many years, and there is nothing that satisfies me more than to see a happy dog and a happy owner!