Heatstroke and Hot Pavement
This is the time of season when dog owners increase their outdoor activities with their pets....walking, jogging, hiking, camping, boating, and so much more. This time spent with our pets can be exciting, rewarding, and can strengthen the bond we already have with them. However, it can also be a dangerous time for our dogs due to increased air temperature which can contribute to heatstroke and increased temperatures of pavements and other surfaces that can lead to burned paws.
What is heatstroke?
Heatstroke, also referred to as heat exhaustion and hyperthermia, is when your pet's body temperature rises to a level that is dangerous and difficult to regulate. A dog's body temperature is typically between 100°and 102.8°. Dogs do not sweat like humans. Instead, they pant to get rid of excess heat. When this mechanism is overwhelmed, a dog's temperature will rise. Body temperatures of 104° are dangerous and temperatures of 106° can lead to heatstroke and death.
Are some dogs more susceptible to heatstroke?
Heatstroke can occur in any age or breed of dog. However, it is more common in brachiocephalic dogs, older dogs, and overweight dogs. Brachiocephalic dogs are those that have a short snout such as Pugs, Bulldogs, Boxers, Boston Terriers, Pekingeses, Shih Tzus, ChowChows, Bull Mastiffs, and Akitas. The shorter snout on these dogs makes it more difficult to dissipate body heat through panting. Labs and Golden Retrievers are sometimes more prone to heatstroke, because they love to eat and easily become overweight. Dogs with long or think coats are also more susceptible to overheating. These dogs include ChowChows, Akitas, and Huskeys. Even though long coats and excessive fat increase the likelihood of heatstroke, the opposite is also true. Dogs such as Greyhounds who have very little fat and very short hair are also more susceptible to heatstroke. Other dogs prone to heatstroke include Springer Spaniels and King Charles Spaniels.
What are the signs of heatstroke?
Excessive panting is the predominant symptom that occurs due to heatstroke. Other symptoms include excessive drooling, red, blue or purple gums/tongue, dehydration, increased heart rate, lack of urination, weakness, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty walking or standing, and seizures. Severe cases can result in unconsciousness and death due to multiple organ failure.
What can I do if I think my dog has heatstroke?
If you think your dog is suffering from heatstroke, remove your dog from the hot environment to one that is cooler, preferably indoors. Wet your dog thoroughly with cool water. Do not use cold water or ice water. Cooling your dog too quickly could lead to hypothermia (temperatures below normal) which can also be dangerous. Small dogs and puppies should be wetted with lukewarm water. You can place a fan on your dog until his temperature is between 103°and 104°. Provide small amounts of cool or lukewarm water. Do not give ice or cold water.
TAKE YOUR DOG TO YOUR VETERINARIAN ASAP! Even if your dog appears to be responding well to your efforts to cool him down, you should always take your dog to your veterinarian if you suspect heat stroke. Unfortunately, there are symptoms and consequences of heatstroke that may not immediately be apparent and may take several days to manifest. These consequences include kidney and other organ failure, irregular heart rhythms, and seizures.
How can I prevent heatstroke in my dog?
NEVER LEAVE YOUR DOG IN A CAR
REGARDLESS OF THE TEMPERATURE OUTSIDE. Leaving dogs in cars is one of the most common causes of heatstroke. Unfortunately, it continues to happen every year despite attempts to educate the public. Even when the temperature outside is a pleasant 70° and the windows are cracked, the interior of a car can reach over 100° in just minutes. Heatstroke and/or death can occur in just 15-20 minutes.
What should I do if I see a dog left in a car?
If you see a dog that has been left alone in a car, immediately call 911. It is very important that you familiarize yourself with your state and local laws regarding the rescue of animals from hot cars. Several states have 'good Samaritan' laws that give immunity to citizens who enter or break into a car to rescue a pet under certain circumstances. Many states only allow rescues to be conducted by law enforcement. Click the link below to view state laws regarding rescuing pets from cars.
Other ways to prevent heatstroke in your dog
Walk, exercise, and play during the earlier hours of the morning before temperatures get too hot or early evening after temperatures have cooled down. Limit time outside. Restrict activities to as much shaded areas as possible. Take along water for your dog. Take frequent breaks. Keep long haired dogs trimmed during the hottest months.
If your dog lives outside, be sure he has access to shelter and shade that is well ventilated at all times during the day. Make sure your dog has a constant supply of clean water that is also sheltered from the sun. If possible, bring your dog inside during the hottest times of the day.
Protect The Paws
Heatstroke is not the only concern that dog owners should be aware of when it comes to summer temperatures. Streets, sidewalks, pavements, and other surfaces can become scorching hot due to increased air temperatures and the hot sun beaming down. The paw pads of dogs can easily become blistered and burned.
How can I prevent my dog's paws from getting burned?
Some of the steps you can take to prevent your pet's paws from being burned are similar to those that can help prevent heatstroke. Limit outdoor activities to the earlier morning or evening hours when surfaces are not as hot, and limit the amount of time outside. Walk your dog on grassy areas, and walk in shaded areas. Paw wax and booties are also an option to help protect your dog's feet. Booties should be specific to summer time weather.
THE SEVEN SECOND TEST:
No matter what time of day it is, always perform the seven second test before walking your dog on surfaces that could be too hot. Place the back of your hand on the asphalt or pavement. If you are unable to comfortably remain there for seven seconds, the pavement is too hot.
How do I know if my dog's paws have been burned?
Not all dogs will show indications that the pavement is too hot while walking. Sometimes, it is only later that you may discover that your pet's paws have been injured. Some dogs will whine and limp due to discomfort or pain. Excessive licking and chewing at the paws can be a sign of discomfort due to injury. The paw pads may be swollen, red, or darker than usual. Blisters may be visible, and the outer
layer of the pad may peel.
What do I do if I think my dog's paws have been burned?
If you think your dog's paws have been burned, bring your dog indoors immediately. If possible, carry your dog to prevent further damage. Rinse your dog's paws with cool water. Do not use ice on the pads. Ice can cause even more tissue damage. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide, because that, too, can cause tissue damage. Do not use alcohol, because it may be painful. Apply a generous amount of antibiotic ointment on the pads and wrap with bandages or cover with a sock to prevent the pet from licking the area.
Take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible.