7 Tips to Save Your Dog’s Life in a Heat Wave
As record heat waves continue throughout the country, you have to take extra good care of yourself and your family —including both the two-legged and four-legged family members. Just as people can get very sick and even die in extremely hot and humid weather, so your canines are subject to the same kinds of dangers.
And while some breeds are at a higher risk of heat stroke and other heat-related health issues, when it gets this hot, every pup and his mother fall into the high-risk category! The good news is that you can take precautions to protect your family from heatstroke.
Symptoms of Overheating in Your Pup
Learn to recognize when your pooch is getting overheated. From least dangerous to worst case, your dog may be moving into the danger zone with:
Heat stress. The early signs of danger begin when your dog salivates more than usual and begins panting intensely. He may become anxious and fail to respond to your commands. His skin and paws may feel dry and warm, and he may even develop a fever. Look for signs of fatigue and check for a rapidly increasing pulse. If your little fellow appears weak, listless or collapsed, take him to the vet right away.
Heat exhaustion. If you have a rectal thermometer, you can take your dog’s temperature to see if he’s bordering on the next level of a heat-related condition. Dogs typically have a temp of 100.5⁰to 101.5⁰ Fahrenheit. Brain damage can occur when it reaches 106⁰.
Heatstroke. The symptoms for heatstroke are much more obvious and alarming if they reach this level. In addition to a higher than normal temperature and all the signs of heat stress, your best buddy may get restless and have difficulty breathing. You may spot a red tongue and pale or red gums. Another danger sign is if he begins vomiting or has diarrhea.
- Heat prostration. At this point, your pup develops glazed-over eyes and dizziness. He may become completely immobile or unconscious. If his organs have been affected due to heat prostration, the consequences may be irreversible, leading to a host of other health issues for the rest of his life.
Your veterinarian closely monitors your pet when you bring him in with suspected problems from the heat. While watching for signs of shock and respiratory issues, the vet also checks for abnormalities in the dog’s heart, liver, lungs, and kidneys. Your vet takes blood samples at this time too, as dogs often develop difficulty with clotting once heatstroke sets in.
What You Can Do
At the first signs of heat stress, bring your pooch inside where it’s cool. Lightly spray him with cool water and, if he hasn’t yet started vomiting, offer him a bowl of freshwater. Place cool, not cold, towels around him and call your vet to let him know you’re want to bring him in.
Don’t wait if you suspect he’s beyond heat stress. Bring your pooch to the vet like his health is in danger. It may be. At the clinic, they may start him on an intravenous drip right away to slowly bring his temperature down and reduce any swelling going on in his brain. There is a danger in cooling an overheated pup too quickly, so you want to keep him monitored by a professional until he’s in the clear.
You Can Prevent Canine Heatstroke
Once you’re aware of the potential dangers of the heat on your health and your pet’s health, you won’t take this heat wave so lightly. Many of the preventive steps you can take for your pup are similar to those you take for yourself and your children. Add a dose of common sense and your dog will weather the heat just fine.
To protect your dog from the heat:
- Never leave your dog in a closed vehicle. This is good practice no matter what the heat index says because temperatures in a car can quickly elevate to dangerous levels. Consider leaving the car running and the air conditioning on if you have to leave your dog even for a few minutes.
- Ensure your pets have a cool place to rest and walk. Don’t let them walk on hot concrete or lie in areas with no shade.
- Keep the air flowing, especially indoors, even if you have no air conditioning. Use fans as much as possible.
- Make sure there’s a fresh supply of cool water available at all times. If your dogs are outside, consider two water bowls, just in case one gets knocked over.
- Loosely muzzle your dogs, especially when they’re working.
- Play lightly on these very hot days. This isn’t the time for long runs or strenuous exercise outdoors. Time your walks for early morning or late evening.
- Pay special attention to your elder, sick or overweight dogs. Pups with heavy coats like huskies or flat noses like pugs are more susceptible to heat-related issues.
If your pet has suffered from heatstroke in the past, he’s at a higher risk of experiencing symptoms again. So take every precaution to avoid situations that could lead to another episode. Finally, consider taking a pet CPR class so you’ll be prepared to handle these and other types of dog emergencies. The Red Cross offers a 35-minute online course, and they even have a mobile pet first aid app that you can download to put help at your fingertips.