Intense Heat, Dog Safety & Heat Stroke

As you are enjoying the Utah outdoors, be careful of leaving your dogs in the car and know the signs of heat stroke, how to test to see if the pavement is too hot for your dog, and how to prevent heat related issues.

This summer we have seen record-breaking high temperatures and warnings telling us to stay inside and out of the heat. This is also true of the animals we share our lives with.  Did you know that a vehicle parked in the sun on a 70-degree day can rise to 100 degrees in just 20 minutes?  We’ve even had a day or two hit 105 degrees.  After 20 minutes sitting in the sun at that temperature, your vehicle would be over 130 degrees inside.  Even with the windows cracked, our vehicles can be one of the most dangerous places for our dogs.  In fact, being kept confined in a vehicle is the number one contributing factor of heat stroke in dogs, a life-threatening emergency that if not fatal, can cause serious health implications.

What are the signs of heat stroke in dogs?

Dogs don’t cool down the same way humans do.  While some dogs do sweat from a behavioral perspective, the two primary ways they control their body temperatures are blood vessel expansion and panting.  If your dog is panting excessively or breathing rapidly, get him to a cool spot as soon as possible.  Other early signs include red gums/tongue, drooling, and a rapid heartbeat.  Pay close attention for these signs when you are out in the heat with your dog. 

If you don’t catch the early signs, more advanced and more dangerous signs will appear.  Some dogs have a hard time keeping their balance, the gums will turn from red to blue, dehydration sets in, blood pressure drops and eventually the dogs will lose consciousness.  These are only some signs of heat stroke.  Talk to your vet for more signs to watch for.  You can also research PetMD and other veterinary websites for a more extensive list of symptoms.

What to do if you see an animal in distress*

If you see an animal in distress, call your local police and your local animal control as quickly as possible, then try to find the owner of the animal.  If you have more than one person in your party, make sure somebody stays with the vehicle until help arrives.  Research and know your ordinances for breaking into vehicles.  Some states do allow for this, but right now Utah is not one of them, unfortunately.

Get the animal to a cool/shady spot as quickly as possible.  If needed, wet a towel with water, lay the dog on the towel and place another wet towel over the dog.  You may pour small amounts of water over the dogs paws, head, neck and back, but DO NOT allow water to enter the mouth or nostrils if the dog is unconscious and DO NOT submerge their head in water.  He/she may choose to drink water, but never force the dog to drink if he chooses not to partake.  You may also use a fan to help cool the dog down while you head to your vet.

Prevention is Key

As always, prevention is the best possible way to keep your dog safe from heat stroke and other heat related health issues.  Unless you can be with your dog in your vehicle with the air conditioner on, it is best to leave Fido home.  If you go hiking, go very early in the morning, choose hikes with shade and running water and always check pavement to make sure it is not too hot for their paws.  Place your bare hand on the pavement or asphalt and leave it there for 10 seconds.  If the pavement is too hot for your hand, it is too hot for your dog’s paws.  For a frame of reference, a 95 degree day can result in asphalt temperature being 150 degrees.

As our heat wave continues, keeping cool is important for humans and dogs alike.  Playing games indoors, frozen kongs or other enrichment items, scent work and naps are all great activities to keep our dogs occupied, but cool.  Visit the enrichment page of our website for more ideas and some DIY projects (https://trainingtoat.com/enrichment-ideas/).

*This blog contains basic first aid suggestions for heatstroke based on reputable websites such as PetMD, Utah Humane Society, and the AKC.  It is not to be taken as veterinary advice.  Always consult your vet for any and all health related issues for your pet. 

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