Heat Stroke In Dogs

In view of the record-setting heat wave we’re having in the Southeastern United States it seems an appropriate time to address heat-related problems in dogs.

The obvious applies: if your dog is to have vigorous exercise, don’t do it in the hottest parts of the day. Limit activities to early morning and early evening, or even after dark, when conditions have cooled off dramatically.

I have one patient, Duchess, who takes her owner for a walk in a nearby park at 4:30 every morning. Not surprisingly, they have the park to themselves.

What do you do if your pet does become overheated? The answer depends on the degree of overheatedness:

  • Hot and panting, but functioning normally:  Cool him off with a garden hose or sink faucet with tepid, not cold, water. If he has long or thick hair you may need to use your hands to help the water reach his skin, where real heat transfer can occur. Simply wetting a thick coat of hair will not help much. Be careful not to overdo it and make him cold.
  • Hot, panting, unconscious, or having seizures:  Now we are in the throes of a medical emergency. Cool your pet as above, and get him into the car immediately to transport him to your pet’s doctor. Failure to act now may cause permanent brain damage.  A multitude of other complications that can occur subsequent to heat stroke. Have someone else call ahead to let the hospital know you are coming and the nature of your emergency.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.

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  1. Thanks for this post! Also, I wish folks wouldn’t leave pets unattended in their vehicles when they go shopping during high temps! That’s a good way to come back to a dead dog!

    • Lindsey, you make an excellent point. In fact, I’d like to expand on it:
      1. Pets should never be left in cars, not even for a minute, not even with the windows down, not even in the shade, not even with the air conditioner running.
      2. I noticed that your email address is “boxergal” and would like to make the point that brachycephalics, all of those breeds of dogs with short, compressed noses have difficulty exhausting heat from their bodies and must have special consideration for remaining cool. Brachycephalics include boxers, bulldogs, pugs, Shih Tzus and Pekingese.
      Thank you for writing, Lindsey.

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