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Could Your Dog Have Heat Stroke? Signs to Look for This Summer

Your pooch will try to tell you; it’s up to you to recognize the clues.

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It’s easy to forget that dogs can suffer from some of the same health problems as humans. Just as a hot day at the park or beach can leave you feeling overheated and dehydrated, the same can happen to little Daisy.

Humans are a bit more adept at cooling off than dogs, though, and not just because people don’t have a thick layer of fur to contend with. You can sweat, which evaporates off your skin and helps you cool down, and your blood vessels expand to allow increased blood flow. (Here are the earliest signs of heat stroke in humans.)

Dogs, on the other hand, can’t sweat. Their methods of cooling off (formally called “thermoregulation”) are primarily panting and expanding blood vessels, according to the American Kennel Club. These aren’t quite as effective, which can leave your best friend a little more vulnerable to the summer temperatures.

The Warning Signs of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

These are the first early signs of heat exhaustion in dogs:

  • Salivating heavily

  • Dryness in the “mucous membranes,” such as the eyes, eyelids, gums, and genitals

  • Fast pulse

  • Hyperactivity

If heat exhaustion progresses, you may notice these symptoms in your dog:

  • Dilated pupils

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Pale color in the mucous membranes, such as the gums, eyelids, and genitals

  • Abnormally rapid breathing (tachypnea)

  • Abnormal bleeding

  • Acting disoriented or delirious

Once heat exhaustion is severe and heat stroke is occuring, your dog may exhibit the following:

  • Tremors

  • Seizures

  • Losing consciousness

Risk Factors for Heat Stroke in Dogs

Some dogs are more vulnerable to the effects of extreme heat and humidity than others, and certain times of the year are more risky. Be on high alert for symptoms of heat stroke in your dog if any of these risk factors apply:

  • Your dog is overweight.

  • Your dog is not used to high temperatures or high humidity.

  • Your dog is out of shape.

  • Your dog is a Labrador retriever or a Brachycephalic breed, such as a pug, Boston terrier, or French bulldog (the flat muzzle makes breathing more difficult).

  • Your dog has hypothyroidism.

  • Temperatures or humidity are high, and/or your dog has been outdoors for multiple hours.

The biggest risk factor for heat stroke in dogs can occur at even semi-hot temperatures: being left inside a confined vehicle. On an 80-degree day, the inside of a car can reach 109 degrees Fahrenheit within 20 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Preventing Heat Stroke in Dogs

You owe it to Buster to keep him safe. (After all, your dog makes you a little healthier, too.) The strategies for preventing heat stroke in dogs is pretty similar to how you would protect yourself: rest, shade, and hydration.

If you’re outdoors for any amount of time on a hot or humid day, keep a water dish handy, and stick to the shade as much as possible. Place the water dish in the shade to encourage Roxy to hang out in a cooler spot. To mimic sweating, you can also spritz them with cool water, and then fan them while the water evaporates.

If your pup is running around and fetching tennis balls, be sure to give her plenty of breaks so she doesn’t over-exert herself. Even dogs who are in good athletic shape can overdo it in extreme heat.

For more dog safety tips, here are 13 human foods that are toxic to dogs.