boxer with tongue outAs the summer heats up it is time to give extra attention to your dog and his environment.  In the heat of summer dogs are susceptible to heat stroke/heat exhaustion.  Heat stroke is an emergency situation and requires immediate treatment.  Because dogs do not sweat (except minimally through their foot pads), they do not tolerate high environmental temperatures as well as humans do.  Dogs depend on panting to exchange warm air for cool air.  But when air temperature is close to body temperature, cooling by panting is not an efficient process.

Common situations that can possibly cause your dog to overheat include:

  • Being left in a car in hot weather
  • Exercising strenuously in hot, humid weather
  • Being a short-nosed breed, such as Bulldog, Pug, Boxer or Pekingese
  • Suffering from a heart or lung condition that interferes with efficient breathing
  • Being muzzled while put under a hair dryer
  • Suffering from a high fever or seizures
  • Being confined on concrete or asphalt surfaces
  • Being confined without shade or fresh water in hot weather
  • Having a history of heat stroke

Heat stroke begins with rapid and excessive panting.  The tongue and mucus membranes become bright pink or red and the saliva is thick and tenacious. The dog often vomits and sometimes has diarrhea.  Gait is staggering and unsteady.  Body temperature (rectal) is 104 degrees F or higher (normal body temp is 101-102 degrees F).

TreatmentEmergency measures to cool the dog must begin at once.  Move the dog out of the heat source, into the shade or preferably into an air-conditioned building.  Begin cooling by gently wetting the dog with a water hose or immersing him into a tub of cool (NOT ICY COLD) water for up to 2 minutes.  Alternatively,  a wet towel to the groin area may be helpful.  Give small amounts of cool water, but DO NOT let your dog guzzle large amounts of water at a time.  If possible, monitor the dog’s temperature rectally.

Following an episode of heat stroke, take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible.  Heat stroke can be associated with laryngeal edema (throat swelling) and this can seriously worsen the breathing problem.

I recommend having your vet’s contact information in your phone just in case you need it in a hurry when you are out and about and you may even want to make a list of the animal emergency centers that are close to your home as well. Prevention, knowledge of your dog’s normal behavior and being prepared will help you to enjoy the outdoors with your dog safely in all types of weather – get out and have some fun!