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How to Reduce Your Dog’s Risk of Heatstroke

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Heat stroke is common in the spring and summer months and the effects can be severe or even fatal to dogs. It is one of the saddest conditions that veterinarians treat because it is entirely preventable.

The condition results from extremely high body temperature (rectal temperature of 105 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit) which develops after increased muscular activity. An impaired ability to dispel excess heat due to high temperature and humidity or a respiratory obstruction can increase the risk and severity of heat stroke.

What are signs of heat stroke in dogs? Common symptoms include excessive panting, collapse, weakness, lethargy, fast heart rates, and very bright pink or occasionally red gums. Advanced signs include vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and coma.

Here are some things you can do to prevent heat stroke in dogs:

1. Be careful in cars. Never ever leave your dog in the car, even if it seems like a mild day or the window is rolled down. The temperature in a car can reach over 120 degrees Fahrenheit in just a few minutes. If you travel with your dog, make sure the car stays well ventilated and stay out of direct sunlight as much as possible. Think of it this way: if you are uncomfortably warm in an area or room, your dog probably is too. If you see a dog locked in a hot car, call your local humane society or police department.

2. Offer water and shade. Always make sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh clean water and shade. If you leave your dog in the yard, make sure you provide a BIG bowl of water. Even if it doesn't seem that hot when you're about to leave, it's easy to misjudge what the temperature will be outside when you are away or in the house.

3. Show care in the spring. A surprisingly common time for heat stroke is the spring, when dogs aren't yet acclimated to the rising temperatures. One scenario frequently occurs when an owner takes their dog for a long walk, run, or hike on the first nice weekend. Unaccustomed to the heat and sun, the dog gets overexerted, resulting in heatstroke. Don't let this happen to you. Dogs will keep going to please you and you need to pay attention to signs of heatstroke so you can stop.

4. Exercise early and late. During the hot months, take your dog for her walk or playtime during the early morning hours or later in the evening when the weather is cooler and less humid.

5. Pay attention to the weather. Watch the forecast and keep your dog indoors during the hottest and most humid days.

6. Know your dog's risks. Dogs with respiratory disease, heart disease, senior dogs, extremely obese dogs and some breeds with flat faces have a very difficult time dealing with the heat. If you have a brachycephalic (flat-faced) dog such as a Pug, Bulldog, French Bulldog, or Boxer, understand that these breeds have some respiratory compromise which prevents them from releasing heat through the respiratory tract like other dogs. Dogs with collapsing trachea, laryngeal paralysis, and heart failure are also at increased risk of heat stroke. Don't exercise these dogs without the advice of your veterinarians.

7. Keep trim. Obese dogs are at higher risk for heat stroke. Think about all the extra fat they are carrying around, the energy it takes to move that weight, and how difficult it is to release all that extra heat. A large percentage of heat released by a dog is done so through radiation and convection of the skin. When the body temperature increases, the blood vessels dilate (get bigger) which increases blood supply to the skin and allows heat to escape. The excess fat in an obese animal prevents this from being an effective heat loss strategy. Keep your dog trim to reduce her risks.

8. Keep your dog groomed. A thick, furry coat can help hold heat close to the body and increase the risk of heat stroke. A closer clip during the hot months can greatly increase your dog's ability to disperse excess heat.

If you believe your dog is overheated, find out what you can do. Go to: Be a Cool Owner: Don't Let Your Dog Overheat
I hope this gives you more information about heat stroke in dogs and helps you prevent any problems.

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