With rising temperatures, there is an increased risk for our pets to suffer from heat stroke. An increased body temperature caused from outdoor weather extremes is usually a medical emergency. A dog’s normal temperature ranges from 99.5⸰F – 102.5⸰F. If the body temperature should rise above 105⸰F, veterinary assistance should be sought immediately.
Risk of heatstroke:
- Left outdoors for a prolonged time in hot conditions, particularly when combined with high humidity
- Insufficient shade provided
- Left in a car
- Inadequate hydration
- Short-nosed breeds (bulldog, Pekingese, pug, Boston terrier)
- High activity level during extreme temperatures, especially with high humidity
Signs of heatstroke:
- Distress / restlessness
- Excessive panting
- Excessive drooling
- Weakness / collapse
In the event your pet begins to show signs of heatstroke, it is important to remove your pet from that environment. Move your pet to a shaded area or bring your pet inside. Use wet towels on the ears, inguinal region of abdomen, and paw pads to assist in cooling. A fan can be used to aid in cooling. Wetting down with a garden hose and cold water should not be attempted. This can drop the body temperature too quickly and cause hypothermia to occur. If a rectal temperature can be obtained, record it and contact your veterinarian. Transportation to your veterinarian or veterinary emergency clinic is likely necessary for supportive care and continued monitoring. Secondary complications can occur if your pet’s temperature should rise to an unsafe level. This should be treated as a medical emergency.
Remember, if it’s too hot for you, it’s likely too hot for your pet as well. Monitor your pet’s breathing. If you notice your pet becomings lethargic or disoriented, move them to a cool area. Dogs cannot sweat like humans and rely on panting to keep themselves cool and to regulate their body temperature. Make sure your pet has plenty of access to cool fresh water, especially during times of high heat and humidity.
Knowing about the dangers that come with warm weather will help you to be proactive in keeping your pets safe this summer.
Seana Juliano, DVM student extern, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, Class of 2023