Cool Down Your Hot Dog

Do you know what steps to take to save the life of an overheated dog?

On a hot summer day, the time between running around having fun and having heatstroke can be mere seconds. The other day, as I sat in the shade of my beach canopy, I saw a long-haired shepherd and his mom running along the shore. He wasn’t looking too hale or hearty. His eyes were glassy and he was panting a lot. Then he started to pull back on his leash. When he could go no farther, his mom stopped, offered him a drink of water and carried him to a cool spot to lie down.

There’s nothing wrong with outdoor fun, but it’s important to be aware of the risks. Just like humans, dogs can suffer from heat exhaustion or heatstroke—and the consequences can be deadly.

When you hear ‘overheated dog,’ you envision a dog panting heavily and quickly to cool down. Mouth open, tongue hanging out and breathing rapidly, dogs use this evaporation method most often to quickly cool down, but it can affect a canine’s interior temperature only so much.

A dog’s normal body temperature is somewhere between 101° and 102.5° F. A dog will start to exhibit the signs of heatstroke at 105° F or more. At around 106° to 108°, irreversible organ damage can occur. As outside temps and humidity increase, panting is much less efficient, which can heighten the risk of heatstroke—and even death.

Fortunately, it’s not hard to spot signs of overheating in dogs. Excessive panting is the first clue: It’s usually fast and noisy. If you see your dog gasping far more than usual, take them inside ASAP and give them cool water to drink. If the condition progresses from there, Skeeter might demonstrate excessive drooling, rapid pulse, pale gums, dehydration, dizziness, vomiting or diarrhea and overall weakness. These can be scary symptoms, so act quickly.

If you think he may be suffering from heat exhaustion or hyperthermia, immediately get him to a cooler area. You can help bring his inner temp down to a safe range by pouring cool—not cold—water over his body and keep him near flowing air. Even if the parched pooch responds well to these actions, call your vet. Internal organ and/or tissue damage are possible side effects. Your vet can monitor for shock, dehydration, kidney failure and other complications.

The best defense for heat exhaustion? Vigilance! Watch Shorty’s activities—most cases are preventable. Make sure he has a shaded, breezy place to rest, out of direct sunlight. Always have plenty of fresh, cool drinking water. Be careful not to overexert Benji as you two enjoy the day—better yet, stay and play inside. And never, ever leave a dog in a car. Even with windows open, the interior of a car can be boiling in no time. In 80° weather, those seats and floors can reach 110° in only 15 minutes.

There’s no reason why you and your canine pal can’t bask in the beautiful days of summer together. Just be diligent in caring for Buster and Layla, use commonsense and be aware of warning signs of heat exhaustion.

By taking the heat off you and your furry best buddy, you can both enjoy all the sunny days ahead!