Recognizing and Preventing Heatstroke in Dogs



Living in Florida means warm temperatures. Hot environments can cause heatstroke in dogs so it is important to consider your pet’s safety and the factors that can contribute to overheating. Dogs eliminate heat by panting. When panting isn’t enough, their body temperature rises and can be fatal if not addressed quickly.

Watch for these signs your dog may be overheating:

  • excessive panting and drooling
  • difficulty breathing
  • weakness and collapse
  • stupor
  • seizures
  • bloody diarrhea
  • vomiting

Keep in mind that the ambient temperature may be lower than the actual temperature your pet feels. For example, the radiant heat that is given off by asphalt or beach sand is significantly hotter than the air temperature. Pets are lower to the ground than we are, so they absorb more heat and overheat more quickly.

Keep your pets cool

Pets that are outside should have ample shade and water available at all times. Bulldogs and other brachycephalic breeds (e.g., Boxers, Shihtzu, Pugs, Boston Terriers, etc.) are more prone to heat stroke than other dogs. These dogs need to be watched very closely when outside in hot weather as they will overheat quickly.

If your dog shows any signs of overheating, get him into the shade right away and place cool (not cold) water on them. You can soak t-shirts or towels with water and place them on your pet to help cool him. If a fan is available, allow the fan to blow on the dog to help evaporate the heat. If the dog is alert, allow him to drink cool (not cold) water to allow his body temperature to come down.

If the dog’s body temperature has gotten so high as to cause bloody diarrhea this could have induced a possible blood clotting disorder.  Seek emergency veterinary care immediately.

Prevention is Key

Before you take your pet on a beach, trail, or any excursion in the Florida heat consider packing a few items just for your pet in a separate cooler including bottled water (for drinking and emergency soaking), and ice or cool packs to keep water cool. Also bring an umbrella for shade, 2-3 small towels for soaking, and booties for the beach. Keep your pets off the hot sand which can cause severe burns to their paws. If the sand is too hot for your feet, then it is too hot for your dog’s feet.

Gary Zinderman, DVM, CVA, is the owner of Indian Street Animal Clinic. His office is located at 1233 SE Indian Street, 101 in Stuart. For more information on holistic care for your pet, call 772-781-9990 or visit IndianStreetVet.com

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