Discover how to keep your dog safe in the heat

It’s the middle of summer and you are walking with your dog down the sidewalk, and boy are you sweating. The layer of moisture on your forehead resembles the condensation on a cold can of soda. You are wearing a pair of shorts, flip-flops, and a tee-shirt that is sticking to your body, trying to wear as little as possible so as to not get too hot.


You have seen reports on the news of how dangerous it is to leave your child alone in the car when it’s hot out, and how it can even be fatal. As a result, along the streets you see parents taking their children with them into the stores to protect them from the dangerous heat levels in the cars.


And then you stop and wonder …


At what point do heat levels become dangerous for your dog?


When is it too hot? 


The internal temperature of dogs

Dr. Dean Henricks, DVM, says that the internal temperature of dogs can get up to 109 degrees Fahrenheit (42.778 degrees Celsius) "Just before it gets to that point the dog starts to panic, passes out and goes into heat stroke."


Heat stroke occurs when a dog becomes too hot and can be very dangerous.


The internal temperature of the human body can get up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), a temperature close to that of dogs, which can lead people to believe that keeping dogs safe in the heat should be about the same as keeping themselves safe in the heat. However, despite the closeness of the maximum temperatures, keeping dogs safe in the heat isn’t the same as keeping people safe in the heat. This is because dogs can have a much harder time keeping cool.


Dogs and thermoregulation

First off, let’s talk about sweating. Humans are the only mammals who cool themselves internally by releasing water onto the surface of our skin, also known as sweating. Humans are not the only mammals who sweat, but rather are the only mammals who sweat water onto the surface of our skin.


Wait, but if dogs don’t sweat in the way we do, then how do they regulate their body temperature? Dogs thermoregulate primarily through panting.


An article by The World points to Yana Kamberov, an assistant professor of genetics at the University of Pennsylvania, who states that “‘Furry animals pant in order to take air in, and [they] use that air to dissipate body heat.’”


Essentially, panting allows dogs to cool off through the evaporation of water. Air is taken in, used to evaporate water from the mucous membranes, and expelled from the body.


In addition to panting, dogs will search out cool surfaces to lay down on (such as the tiled floor in your home). Cool surfaces allow heat to transfer from the dog to the surface through the process of conduction, aiding in lowering the internal temperature of the dog.


How to keep your dog safe

What can you do to keep your dog from getting heat stroke?


First and foremost, never leave your dog alone in the car when it is hot out. Temperatures inside of cars rise rapidly, even when the windows are down and the car is in the shade. It only takes a few minutes for temperatures inside of a car to reach dangerously high levels, so no errand is “quick enough” to leave your dog alone.


Second, don’t take your dog for walks when it is too hot out. This generally means taking your walks in the early morning. Dr. Bernadine Cruz, DVM, provides a good test to tell whether it is too hot out to walk your dog: "Take your shoes off, stand on the blacktop and if it's too hot for you, it's too hot for your dog." If you are already out on a walk and your dog is panting heavily or it becomes much warmer than it was when you began, turn around and take your dog home. Additionally, make sure that you have water for your dog if you are taking long walks.


Third, don’t leave your dog outside for long durations unless they are provided what they need to survive. This means that when a dog is left outside, it needs shade and water at a minimum. Make sure that there is enough water available for the dog and that the water is easily accessible. If providing water in a container or bowl of some sort, make sure that the container is sturdy and not at risk of being knocked over. Fasten or weigh the container down if necessary to ensure that your dog doesn’t accidentally spill their water source.  On top of that, make sure that there is enough shade for your dog to lay down comfortably, and that there will continue to be shade for your dog to lay under for the duration that they will be left outside.


Fourth, provide your dog with a place to swim and splash around. Be wary when your dog is around water because not all dogs can swim, and dogs that can swim can easily get tired. Dr. Cruz suggest using a small pool to get your dog comfortable and adjusted to being in the water. Small pools made specifically for dogs can be especially helpful because they are shallow enough that a dog can enjoy time in it even if they can’t swim well. Additionally, having a pool made specifically for dogs ensures that the pool is made with materials that are safe for dogs while also being durable enough to withstand dogs.


What to do if your dog gets heat stroke

It is important to know what to do if your dog gets heat stroke, even if you followed all the advice above.


Symptoms of heat stroke that you should keep an eye out for are tacky gums, rapid heart rate, panting, dry nose, drooling, being unresponsive, muscle tremors, and seizures.


If your dog starts experiencing heat stroke, get your dog into fresh air. Try to lower their internal body temperature, which is best done by applying cool water to their armpits, the insides of their ears, and their tongues. After applying cool water to those specific parts of your dog’s body, try to get your dog soaked in cool water. A small pool is great for this, but a water hose will do too.


Your dog may be thirsty when experiencing heat stroke, but if not, don’t force them to drink water or try to poor it down their throat. Instead, just try to run cool water over your dog’s tongue.


Always resort to calling an animal health professional when necessary. The information provided in this blog post is in no way a substitute for treatment from licensed health professionals. Please be safe with your pets and be safe if applying the information in this post at home.



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