Heat injuries encompass heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. They are one of the most common preventable emergencies we see in the summer, can become life-threatening before you recognize a problem, and can kill even young, athletic dogs. If you suspect a heat injury, you should ALWAYS seek medical attention – even if they seem to be “getting better” deadly problems may be happening inside your pet.
How Do I Prevent A Heat Injury?
- Respect the temperature. If your dog spends most of his time in the air conditioning, it doesn’t have to be that hot out for them to overheat.
- Understand your dog’s conditioning. If your dog only exercises a few minutes a day (or week), they can overheat fast even with light exercise like walking.
- Spray them down. If you can’t avoid time outside on a hot day, wetting them down will help keep them cool as the water evaporates.
- Restrict exercise during the hot parts of the day.
- Provide cool water and shade whenever your dog is outside.
What Should I Do If I Suspect A Heat Injury?
- Get your pet out of the heat, ideally into an air conditioned environment.
- Check your pet’s temperature, ideally with a rectal thermometer.
- Wet paws and ears with cool (NOT COLD) water. You can also place cool, damp towels in your pets armpits
- DO NOT apply ice or cold water. This will cause blood vessels in the skin to constrict, and actually make it MORE difficult for your dog to get rid of excess heat.
- Seek veterinary care! I cannot over-emphasize how serious heat injuries can become, and how quickly. The damage to your pet does not stop the moment they are taken out of the heat, either. Please don’t take a “wait and see” approach. Wouldn’t you rather your vet tell you it wasn’t that big of a deal than show up hours later when it might be too late?