Summer is a time when many dogs and their humans enjoy spending time outdoors together. But dogs and people react to heat and humidity in different ways, and what may feel like an acceptable temperature to a human may be too much for dogs. Especially when humidity is high, dogs may be at risk of heat stress.
If you’re going for a walk, a jog or tossing the Frisbee in your back yard, watch your pet for signs of overheating. Common symptoms of heat stress are:
- Excessive panting
- Seeming “out of it” – not listening to commands, looking dazed
- An anxious expression
More severe forms of heat stress – heat stroke and heat prostration – are accompanied by additional symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea, a dark red tongue, dizziness, a rapid pulse and a warm nose and foot pads.
Keeping dogs safe
To protect your pet from heat-related illnesses, schedule outdoor activities early in the morning. In the evening, even if air temperatures are cooler, hard surfaces may still be hot. Pavement retains heat well into the evening, and asphalt can reach 125 degrees when the air temperature is 77 degrees. If you wouldn’t walk barefoot on a surface because it’s too hot, then it’s definitely too hot for a dog.
During any outdoor activity with your dog, take plenty of bottled water and a rubber or nylon collapsible dog bowl. Dogs may be too excited to realize they need a drink, so periodically interrupt whatever they’re doing to make them take water breaks.
If you notice your pet seeming sluggish, move to the shade immediately and offer plenty of cool (not cold) water, but in small servings – too much water at once can cause gastrointestinal upset. And on your summer walks, take along a hand towel or bandana, because if your dog shows signs of overheating, you can wet the cloth with cool water and gently pat your dog to help regulate body temperature.
When a pet shows no signs of improvement after resting in the shade and drinking cool water, or if other more serious symptoms develop, call a veterinarian immediately.
When treated as soon as possible, most dogs recover from heat stroke without suffering lasting effects.