Heatstroke in dogs can be a life-threatening condition which occurs when elevated temperatures and high humidity cause an increase in a dog’s body temperature, preventing normal thermoregulation. Heatstroke can affect many of the organ systems in the dog, causing bleeding abnormalities, kidney and liver damage, gastrointestinal distress, and even seizures. Park East Animal Hospital is here to help you keep your four-legged friends cool, comfortable, and healthy during the hot summer months.
While dogs do have a limited ability to perspire, their sweat glands are limited to the pawpads and constitute a very small percentage of the surface are of their bodies. Dogs rely heavily on panting to release heat, and are much more dependent cool surfaces and shade for thermoregulation.
Certain factors can predispose dogs to heat exhaustion and increase the risk of heatstroke. These factors include brachycephaly (short-nosed, flat-faced dogs such as Frenchies and Pugs), obesity, long hair, and dark-colored dogs. Medical conditions such as larygneal paralysis, cardiovascular disease, and others can also increase a dog’s risk of developing heatstroke.
Signs of heatstroke can vary. The most common symptoms include:
▸ Excessive panting
▸ Excessive salivation
▸ Bright red tongue or gums
▸ Thick, sticky saliva
▸ Depression or lethargy
▸ Weakness, decreased coordination, or muscle tremors
▸ Vomiting (possibly including blood)
▸ Diarrhea (possibly including darker or tarry stools)
- Provide access to water at all times.
- Exercise your pets in the morning or in the evening, when the humidity is slightly more manageable and the temperatures are not at their peaks. Too much exercise in hot weather can be very dangerous.
- Avoid extended periods of time on concrete or asphalt, where heat is reflected and there is no access to shade.
- Try to provide a cool, shaded area for your pet. While air conditioning can help, there are other ways to provide a cooler environment. Wrap cold ice packs (you can make your own with resealable plastic bags or water bottles) in a towel. Place them on the floor to allow your dog to lie on them, or hold them against your pet’s body.
- Never keep your dog in your car, even with the windows open, just to run a quick errand, or for any other reason. Temperatures escalate quickly in cars, and can cause very severe problems.
If you notice any signs of heatstroke or are concerned that your dog is at increased risk, Park East Animal Hospital is here to help! Our doctors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help keep your pets cool and comfortable throughout the summer. Please call 212-832-8417 with any questions or concerns.