Midwestern University Animal Health Institute Bulldogs Walking Summer Heat

Protect Your Dog from Heat Stroke

April 7, 2021

Todd D. Carter, D.V.M., DACVIM

The Arizona summer heat can be dangerous, for both people and pets. Going outside without sun protection or plenty of drinking water can result in severe sunburn, burns on the feet from hot pavement, dehydration, and heat stroke. Follow these guidelines to help your dog stay safe and comfortable.

Every dog is susceptible to heat stroke. Avoid long exposure to the sun, and always take along plenty of water for both you and your dog. Use dog boots to protect their feet on asphalt or concrete. And of course, NEVER leave a dog in the car for even a few minutes.

Dogs do not sweat through their skin like people do; they expel heat through panting, which requires a well-functioning airway. Dogs with shorter airways, such as English and French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Pugs, have more difficulty expelling heat, dramatically increasing their risk of heat stroke. Be extremely careful with these breeds during the summer months. Let them out only during the cooler portions of the day, and then only for a short time (no long walks).

Any dog with a history of respiratory or cardiovascular disease is also at higher risk for heat-related illness, including dogs with tracheal collapse, heart failure, and laryngeal paralysis. If your dog has a history of coughing, changes in bark, or hoarse sounds when breathing, consult your veterinarian before participating in any strenuous activity.

Seek veterinary care immediately if your dog shows any signs of overheating, such as panting without being able to stop, failure to keep pace, collapse, red gums, vomiting or diarrhea. Time is critical, and getting your pet to an emergency facility can truly make the difference between life and death. To help reduce body heat, you may hose the dog down with cool water (do not use ice!) and put rubbing alcohol on the footpads, but these will not reduce the need for immediate veterinary care.

Following the above tips can help keep your pet cool and safe, and make the summer more enjoyable for everyone.

The information contained in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment. Always consult your veterinarian with any questions regarding any possible medical condition affecting your pet.

Todd D. Carter, D.V.M., DACVIM is a Clinical Assistant Professor of small animal internal medicine at the Midwestern University College of Veterinary Medicine. He supervises veterinary students in their last two years of clinical training at the Companion Animal Clinic, part of the Midwestern University Animal Health Institute in Glendale, Arizona. The Animal Health Institute clinics utilize the latest technology to provide high-quality care at affordable prices for both small and large animals.

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Companion Animal Clinic