Now that we are in the heat of summer, it’s important to remember that we humans aren’t the only ones who have to worry about heat stroke and dehydration. Pets, particularly dogs, can suffer from heat stroke and dehydration when the temperatures get over 90 degrees.
“We don’t see cats suffering from heat related conditions as often. Probably because they have a smaller body size and are less likely to overexert themselves.” says Dr. Chris Gaylord at North Slope Veterinary on 6th Avenue and Union Street, “But when it’s hot, dogs — like people — don’t usually show signs of thirst until they are already dehydrated.”
Dr. Gaylord says that heat stroke and dehydration in dogs can be difficult to treat and the best thing to do is prevent it from happening in the first place. “Dogs don’t always regulate themselves, so it’s important to monitor their temperature.”
Here are some of Dr. Gaylord’s tips for preventing heat stroke and dehydration:
- Limit outdoor time. When it’s 90+ degrees outside, it’s important to make sure your dog is not spending too much time outdoors in the heat.
- Ensure access to water. Make sure your dog always has fresh water to drink.
- Encourage pets to drink water. Don’t just make the water available, make sure your pets are drinking it.
- Keep pets indoors with air conditioning or a fan. During 90+ degree days, keep your dogs and cats inside with the air conditioning on, if possible. On cooler days, a fan probably enough.
Dr. Gaylord emphasizes that prevention is the best way to treat heat stroke and dehydration. But if you suspect your dog is suffering from the heat, these are the signs Dr. Gaylord says to look for:
- Wobbly gait
- Struggling to breathe
- Gums are blue
- Confusion, neurological issues
Dr. Gaylord says that body temperatures over 105 degrees can cause serious problems, such as anemia, neurological problems, and respiratory issues. If you suspect your dog is overheated, take them to a veterinarian immediately.
Until you can get your dog to the vet, encourage your pet to drink water, drape room temperature wet towels over them, and put rubbing alcohol on their paw pads. “It evaporates quickly and helps pump off some of the heat,” explains Dr. Gaylord.
Whatever you do, don’t put your dog into an ice bath. It sounds counterintuitive, but Dr. Gaylord says the cold water can cause their blood vessels to contract and can actually raise their body temperature.
Another condition Dr. Gaylord says to watch out for in the summer is sun exposure with dogs that have white fur or thin coats; it can lead to skin cancer. If your dog has a thin, white coat of fur, make sure to cover them if you plan to spend a lot of time in the sun. Or pick up some doggy sunscreen.