A Cool Dog is Better than a Hot Dog!

Heatstroke is a completely preventable condition but is something we see here at Larkmead Vets all too frequently.  I think we are all aware how quickly the temperature inside a car can increase even on a relatively cool day, but less of us are aware of how dangerous it can be to exercise our dogs on hot days.

We all enjoy soaking up the sun on a warm day and even enjoy running in the park.  We keep cool by drinking plenty of fluids and sweating.  Our dogs cannot sweat like we can.  Instead they cool themselves by panting (drawing cooler air in from the environment and expelling warmer air from the lungs), and drinking cool water.  If dogs are allowed to exercise in the heat of the day they can get very hot very quickly (like us exercising with a non-breathable body suit on).  Not only can this be very uncomfortable, but it can be fatal; every year we see fatalities associated with heat stroke due to multiple organ failure. 

Some dogs are more predisposed to develop heat stroke than others.  Dogs with short noses and narrow airways termed brachycephalic breeds (e.g. Pugs and French Bulldogs) suffer more with the heat.  These dogs should certainly not be exercised in the middle of the day – walk early in the morning and late at night to avoid the heat of the day.  On some very hot days – do not walk them.

What are the signs to look for? 

Excessive panting
Thick drool/saliva coming from the corners of the mouth
Noisy breathing
Crackly breathing
Weakness
Lack of co-ordination

Severe cases may present with collapse, seizures, vomiting and/or diarrhoea (In these severe cases the damage is often irreversible – even if we can save these dogs in the emergency situation, they will often end up with organ damage a few days down the line)

So what can you do in this situation?

The most important thing you can do is to cool your dog down quickly.  Wetting the dog with cold water is the simplest and fastest way to reduce its body temperature.  Make sure they have access to plenty of cool drinking water.  It is important that you do not allow your dog to get too cold though, as hypothermia (a low body temperature) can often occur after heat stroke as the body takes a little time to reset its temperature. We recommend bringing them in to see us as soon as possible so that we can provide any treatment needed and assess for any damage.