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Dog Heat Stroke: Signs & Solutions

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July and August are the hottest months of the year, which can make you and your pets pretty uncomfortable to say the least.

You may be surprised to learn that dogs are actually more susceptible to heat-related injury and illness than humans. Seems counter intuitive, right? Dogs are supposed to be outdoor animals. Unfortunately, though, they’re not very good regulators of heat because of the way they breathe and sweat.


It’s a common misconception that dogs don’t sweat; they do. But they regulate heat mainly by panting, which explains why flat-nosed breeds like pugs and bulldogs are more susceptible to becoming overheated. Compact snouts restrict their airways, preventing them from taking deeper breaths.

Here are some typical signs to look for if you worry that your dog might be over-heated:

Behavioral changes: staring off, looking anxious, refusing to obey commands, staggering or general loss of coordination

Physical symptoms: skin that is hot to the touch, bright red tongue or gums, loud panting, rapid breathing, excessive drooling

Urgent Warnings: diarrhea, collapsing, vomiting, or unconsciousness

If your dog appears to be overheated, it’s critical to cool their temperature quickly—but do so carefully. Some sources suggest submerging your dog in cool water while others strongly advise against this because rapid cooling can result in cardiac arrest (cold water restricts the blood vessels). So applying cool—not cold—water is critical. But because air flow is necessary for the cooling process, do not submerge your pet, cover them in a wet towel, or wet them and place them in a small enclosure (such as a kennel).

If you’re at a house, wet your dog with a garden hose or faucet and let them sit in front of a fan. If you’re out and about, wet the dog using a water bottle or fountain and have them sit in the car with the air conditioner running. If you’re not psyched about having a soaking-wet dog on your car seat or kitchen tile, keep in mind that it probably isn’t necessary to drench the dog. A dog will benefit the most if its footpads, tummy, and inside-legs are wetted, as these exposed areas of skin have the most superficial blood vessels. Douse your dog with water to cool their skin, make sure they’re getting air circulation, and try to get them moving around a bit once they appear to be on the mend.

Of course, it’s always better to prevent a dog heat stroke rather than treat it! So limit their outdoor exposure. Keep a water bottle handy both for drinking and to sprinkle your dog’s fur every now and then. Never leave your dog in the car—even with the windows cracked. And last but not least, over-heating can still occur in the home, so remember to leave your at-home thermostat at a reasonable temperature and leave out plenty of water.

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