“We see a lot more problems with heat stroke in the summer than we do with hypothermia in the winter,” veterinarian David Cain of Farmstead Veterinary Clinic said.
Cain said overweight or older dogs are at a greater risk of heat stroke than slimmer or younger dogs. Also, any dog with a compromised respiratory system or a short, or pug nose, such as boxers, bulldogs and shih tzus are at greater risk for heat-related complications. Also, hyperactive breeds, like labs, some golden retrievers and shepherds can overheat.
“The big thing you have to remember is they do not have well-developed sweat glands, so the primary way they cool themselves is through panting,” Cain explained.
Ideally, Cain said, it is best to keep pets inside during the day, or at least during the hottest parts of the day. If that isn’t possible, ensure that outside pets have shade and fresh, cool water.
“They probably need fresh water at least twice a day, three times a day is even better,” Cain said.
Another key to protecting an outside pet from heat stroke is to be aware of things that excite them or stir them up.
“Basically, they don’t have enough sense to quit,” Cain said. “Go out, see what’s wrong and try to calm them down.”
A children’s swimming pool can also be a great way to keep your pet cool. Try to place the pool in a shady area and change the water regularly.
Signs of a heat stroke include excessive panting, dilated pupils and a stupor-like state where the animal will not respond. According to Cain, the most important thing at that point is to cool them off quickly.
“Spray them with cold water, put ice packs around their neck or put them in the tub with ice,” Cain said.
Cooling the pet is the most important thing, even before considering a vet trip, according to Cain.
“Ice them down first, instead of just throwing them in the car and going to the vet,” Cain said. “Even if you just bring the temperature down a few degrees, it can make a big difference. If you caught it early, the breathing will stabilize and the animal will become responsive within about 20 or 30 minutes.”
Even once the pet is stabilized, keeping a close eye on it or getting a vet to look over it can protect the animal against lasting damage. According to Cain, it is not uncommon for body temperatures to reach 107 or 108 degrees, which can cause major internal damage.
“Even though they survive, there can be lasting damage at that point,” Cain said. “It never hurts to have them checked out. If you aren’t sure, call and talk to somebody at your vet’s office.”