Heatstroke – Keeping Your Dog Safe in Summer

13 January 2022

Summer is still in full force in South-East Queensland and with extended daylight and lots of sunshine, it can be a great time to get active with your pet. However, while you’re having fun in the sun, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of heatstroke – a serious condition caused by the elevation of a dog’s body temperature.

Dogs, unlike humans, do not have sebaceous (sweat) glands and so cannot sweat to cool themselves down. This makes them more prone to overheating and developing heatstroke, which can be fatal if untreated. Heatstroke is a condition in which the body overheats for a prolonged time and causes failure of the body’s temperature-regulating mechanism.

Heatstroke can cause damage to lungs, organs, muscles, swelling of the upper airways, bleeding disorders, permanent brain damage and even death if left untreated.

Dogs rely on panting to cool themselves down as it helps to lower their body temperature. Unfortunately, it is not as effective as sweating, taking off layers of clothing (dogs coats are a little more attached than ours!) having a cold shower, or turning on the air-con.

Dog breeds with short snouts, like Pugs and Bulldogs, are at higher risk of getting heatstroke, as are older dogs, overweight dogs, and dogs that have had airway or heart problems.

Following are some steps you can take to minimise the risk of your dog getting heatstroke:

  • Avoid exercising your dog during the hottest parts of the day. Also please remember that a footpath that is hot to the touch for your hands can burn your dog’s footpads.
  • NEVER leave your dog in a warm or hot car.
  • Don’t travel with your dog in a poorly ventilated car.
  • Always provide adequate amounts of water.
  • Keep your dog inside during the day, preferably in the air-conditioning.
  • Spray your dog with a fine mist of water regularly throughout the day.
  • If outdoors, make sure your dog has shady areas to escape to and ask neighbours to check on them if you’re not home.
  • Put ice cubes in their water bowl.
  • Provide a paddling pool for your dog to cool off in, make sure it is only shallow and supervised, especially if you have children at home too.

Signs and symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • Panting excessively
  • Very red or dark tongue and gums
  • Staggering
  • Rectal temperature above 39.2 degrees (if you have a thermometer)
  • Seizures
  • Some pets will vomit or have diarrhea.

If you suspect your pet has heatstroke, you can attempt to cool them using cool water, not ice, over their body until you get to a vet. Turn your car’s air conditioning on for travel. Do not wrap your pet in wet towels as this will worsen their condition.

You can find more information about heatstroke here.

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