These dog days of summer can be difficult for our four legged companions. Heat stroke is a serious condition in dogs and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to this malady. The main mechanism dogs use for cooling core body temperature is through panting along with some cooling via glands in the paw pads as well. If you notice your dog panting heavily or excessively it can be the first warning sign that their temperature is rising.
Environmental factors that help set the stage for overheating include temperature, humidity, radiant heat, and air flow. Dogs that are left in cars experience a worst case scenario when it comes to these four variables. Never leave your dog in a vehicle on a hot day, and if you are wondering if it's cool enough, think again. Radiant heat is infrared from the sun and when it comes streaming through a car window can cause a serious problem for dogs even if the car is running and the a/c is on full blast.
Exertional factors impact a dog's susceptibility to heat stroke as well. Be careful taking your dog on taxing excursions during hot days with high humidity indices. Some dogs don't know how to slow it down and can overdo it even though you have a tame walk in mind. Activity increases the body temperature and can push things over the edge in a hurry for a dog.
Physiologic factors should also be considered when assessing risks for heat stroke. Thick fur breeds, dogs with shortened muzzles, working dogs, or dogs who have medical conditions like obesity, laryngeal paralysis, or obstructive airway disease, may be at an increased risk.
Heat stroke can be prevented by taking measures not to expose your dog to these risk factors by being aware of them. Always ensure your dog has proper shelter from the elements, access to fresh clean water, and is in a well ventilated area. Remember that dogs often need more than an hour to cool down after intense summer exercise and there is no substitute for good hydration when it comes to protection against heat stroke.
If you think your dog is experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion or hyperthermia, check with your veterinarian immediately. Heat stroke can be a life threatening emergency causing hidden problems such as swelling of the brain, seizures, kidney failure, and clotting abnormalities.
Keep cool, stay hydrated, and enjoy this summer heat!