Summer temps pose heat stroke danger for dogs

By Caroline Klapper | Jun 25, 2014
Photo by: File photo DO NOT LEAVE DOGS IN HOT CARS — Every summer, dogs tragically lose their lives or become severely ill after being left in a hot car.

The next few months might be known as “the dog days of summer,” but that doesn't mean the high temperatures of sultry summer days can't be harmful to your best friend.

Just like humans, dogs can and do get heat stroke. In fact, because dogs do not sweat, heat stroke can occur more rapidly and can be more severe than it is in people. Panting helps to cool dogs somewhat, but when the air temperature is up, it doesn't help much.

According to Dr. Rachel Horne, an emergency veterinarian at Regional Emergency Animal Care Hospital, heat stroke in dogs is “definitely a common problem” once the weather starts to warm up.

Common causes:

While overheating can occur in many situations, these are some of the most common:

Leaving a dog in a car during hot weather — It might seem like a no-brainer, but every summer, dogs tragically lose their lives or become severely ill after being left in a hot car. Remember, even though it might seem like the car won't get that hot with the windows open a little bit, it takes only minutes for the inside of a car to dangerously overheat on a hot day.

In 85-degree weather, the inside of a car can reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes even with the windows opened slightly. In 30 minutes, the temperature can reach 120 degrees, and those temperatures can easily be fatal to a dog in a very short time.

And remember, North Carolina law states that rescue workers can break into a car to rescue dogs, cats or other animals in distress from hot cars.

Heavy exercise on a hot, humid day — It is best to limit exercise on especially hot days, or if you do want to exercise your dog, do it in the cooler early morning or later evening hours. Also, be aware of pavement, which can get very hot and cause burns to your dog's footpads.

Being kept in a kennel or confined area with no access to shade — It really IS cooler in the shade, and that temperature difference can be a big help to your dog during the hot summer months. If your dog is going to be outside in the heat, make sure it has plenty of shade or a sheltered area and a lot of water.

Symptoms of heat stroke:

If you are concerned that your dog might be getting a little too hot under the collar, look for some of the symptoms overheating.

One of the first signs of a dog that's getting overheated is heavy panting and difficulty breathing. While some panting during hot weather is normal, it shouldn't be excessive. If your dog looks like he's struggling to breathe, it's time to cool him down.

Drooling, vomiting and diarrhea can occur as the dog gets hotter, and often the tongue and gums will appear bright red instead of a more normal pink color.

As the dog's temperature rises above 104 degrees (normal range for a dog is 99.5 to 102.5 degrees), he will become more unsteady on its feet, disoriented and could have seizures.

Deterioration is rapid and if nothing is done to treat its heat stroke, the dog will eventually collapse, seizure, enter into a coma and die.


If signs of heat stroke are present, the dog needs to be cooled down immediately.

Move your dog into the shade or an air-conditioned room, and apply ice packs or a cool, wet towel to the dog's head, neck and body, or you can put the dog in a tub of cool (not ice cold) water. Offer the dog small amounts of water, and call a veterinarian immediately.

“It can be fatal,” Horne said, adding heat stroke is a serious emergency for any animal and requires immediate medical attention.

Once you've started the cooling down process, Horne said the dog needs to be brought to a veterinarian for further treatment right away.

Typically, heat stroke cases are treated with oxygen, cooling, IV fluids and monitoring for further complications.

“It depends on what the signs are,”  Horne said of what treatments the veterinarian will choose to pursue.

Avoiding heat stroke:

Aside from avoiding situations that could cause heat stroke, there are some easy, good ways to keep dogs cool during the summer.

Horne suggests giving long-haired dogs a short haircut when it's hot outside. In addition, keeping them in air conditioned or shady areas, supplying them with a fan and avoiding midday walks will help keep the heat at bay, she said.

And as always, make sure there is plenty of water available to your dog at all times.