The Heat is On: Heatstroke Prevention

With spring rapidly giving way to summer, our furry pals are having fun playing outside a lot more, and families are taking road trips with their dogs. But summer brings the heat, and with that comes a very real possibility of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Do dogs sweat?

dog panting heat

A dog’s core temperature is around 120°F, whereas a human’s core temperature averages between 97°-99°F. The core temperature refers to the internal body temperature, and affects organs – the heart, liver, brain, and blood. Sweating is one of the body’s ways of cooling itself. When we sweat, moisture evaporates off our skin, which helps to cool our blood as it circulates. This circulation regulates our body temperature.

Dogs don’t sweat the same way humans do. They do have sweat glands in their footpads, and they pant. They also cool themselves through a process known as vasodilation. Instead of sweating through their skin, blood vessels near the surface of the skin dilate and bring blood closer to the surface, cooling it as it circulates – sort of like a radiator. Panting also helps them keep cool.

And while it might be tempting to shave your dog for the summer, don’t. Fur actually acts as insulation, keeping the direct heat off the skin. It also protects against sunburn.

How do I know if it’s too hot to walk my dog?

dog walking on leash

If it’s too hot for you, it’s a good bet it’s too hot for your dog. Concrete and asphalt can heat up to temps well in excess of 100°F, so if it’s too hot for your bare feet, then it’s too hot for your dog.

Changing up your walking routine is a good idea. Go in the early morning or late evening, when the ground is still cool. And for those mid-day potty breaks, keep them as short as possible. Play dates at a doggie daycare with a climate-controlled indoor play area or a pool is a perfect alternative to an outdoor dog park.

Never leave your dog alone in a hot car

dog in car heat

Even if the weather outside seems comfortable, the temperature rises quickly inside a vehicle when the air conditioning is not running. It can get dangerously hot within minutes, even with the windows cracked. Every year, dogs die from preventable heatstroke inside a car.

Recognizing the symptoms

Puppies, older dogs, and bracycephalic breeds like pugs and bulldogs are highly susceptable. The AKC Canine Health Foundation has a list of symptoms, including:

  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling
  • Bright red gums
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Lethargy, disorientation or confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Collapse, seizure, coma

If you notice your dog exhibiting symptoms of heat exhaustion or heatstroke, immediate action is necessary to prevent organ failure and death. Call an emergency vet immediately and ask for first aid instructions, and then get to a vet as soon as possible. Do not ice your dog down unless instructed to do so by the vet. Monitor your dog’s temperature while in transit.


dog in pool on hot day

Heat exhaustion or heatstroke can also happen when a dog that is acclimated to cooler temperatures is moved to a warmer environment (acclimation can take 60-90 days), or when an inactive dog starts becoming more active. Drastic seasonal weather changes – like the sub-zero temps we saw earlier this year, and these summer-like temps we’re seeing this spring – can also trigger symptoms.

When it gets hot outside, limit your dog’s activities outdoors. Indoor playdates are ideal if you have access to a climate-controlled area that Fido can play in. Keep your walks short and go during the coolest parts of the day. Make sure that fresh water is accessible at all times; changing the water frequently will also help to keep it at a fairly cool temperature. Supervise your dog, especially outdoors, and never leave him alone in a car.

For more information about heat exhaustion and heatstroke prevention, contact the Jackson County Animal Protection Society or your local veterinarian. For news about our local events and volunteer opportunities, subscribe to our newsletter!

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