Summer is a great time to take your dog outside for some fun. However, the sun and heat can also cause your dog to get very
sick. Dogs cannot lose excess body heat by sweating as humans can- the only part of their body that can sweat is their paw pads. Instead of sweating, they lose body heat by panting- this has a limited effect in a warmer temperature.
When exposed to environments with hot temperatures, dogs can experience hyperthermia within minutes. When their temperature reaches over 106F, they can start experiencing multiple organ failure and eventually death.
Common causes of hyperthermia during the summer include leaving a dog in a hot car, being in the yard without access to shade, or vigorous exercise on a warm or hot day. The early signs of heatstroke include panting, drooling, an elevated heart rate, or feeling warm to the touch. As the stress of hyperthermia advances, dogs will develop vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. Eventually, heat stress will lead to seizures, a coma, or death if not corrected as soon as possible.
It is important to remember that hyperthermia is a medical emergency. Treatment is aimed at gradually and safely reducing their internal body temperature. We often do this by pouring cool water (NOT cold water) over their bodies and applying rubbing alcohol to their paw pads to increase perspiration. Cool IV fluids are then initiated to begin cooling the inner organs of the body. Blood work is recommended if pets have experienced extreme hyperthermia- this will monitor the functions of the internal organs. The overall prognosis depends on the severity of the hyperthermia and the overall effect on the body.
Ways to help keep your dog safe this summer include planning walks for the cooler part of the day. Limit ball throwing and other exercises to short periods on hot days, ensure your dog has access to shade and fresh water if left outside, and always leave your AC running if the dog is in your car (even for just a few minutes!).