With the temperatures rising and the sun shining, many of us start becoming a little more active outdoors, often together with our pets. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke can happen to both our pets and us alike, so it’s important to take some precautions and keep an eye out for signs of distress, especially with some of our brachycephalic breeds like bulldogs and pugs, as well as overweight animals. Avoiding and preventing overheating is relatively easy to do, and can prevent potentially life-threatening scenarios! A dog’s drive and desire to play can sometimes override all other concerns, so keep your eyes out for signs of heat exhaustion. If at all in doubt, take a break, find somewhere cool, and provide water. Your local veterinary clinic can provide info and avoidance measures should you need anything. If things seem to be worsening or not improving despite rest, seek veterinary attention immediately, especially if some of the more severe signs are present. Body temperatures over 106F (41C) put dogs at risk of heatstroke and potentially serious consequences.
Bring water! Portable dog bowls and bottles pack light and are great for long walks or hikes. You can even get a dog pack so your pet can carry their own gear!
Frequent breaks and shade. Dogs don’t sweat, except through their feet, and thus panting is their main way to cool down. Lots of water breaks are important for this reason. Pick shady areas to rest in.
Signs to watch for:
Initial signs: Excessive panting is one of the first signs. Being dull or less responsive than normal. Other signs may include glazed eyes, excessive drooling, tachycardia (fast heart rate, can be felt through the chest or on the inside of the thigh) while resting, dizziness, lack of coordination or ataxia/wobbliness, fever, lethargy, and fainting.
Severe cases (potentially life-threatening) – Collapse, difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat, convulsions, vomiting, diarrhea, gum/tongue colour changes from normal pink to blue or bright red.
Things to do to help cool off:
Rest and find shade, air conditioning if possible
Provide water, consider wetting the paws, groin, and ears with a cool wet cloth
If there is a lake around and your dog is a swimmer or is so inclined, allow them to take a dip
Seek medical attention if not improving