Don’t Forget About Your Hot Dog
By Sarah Trimble, DVM
What better way to spend the summer than outdoors with your best canine friend? Although the exercise that comes with the warm weather can be great for the health of our furry companions, it is important to monitor our pets closely when out in the heat during these months. “Heat stroke” is a term used to describe hyperthermia or a dangerously increased body temperature. Although a severe fever can lead to this, it is typically associated with environmental factors.
With only a few sweat glands in their footpads, dogs are not able to regulate their body temperature by sweating as easily as humans. In fact, their primary way of “cooling down” is through the act of panting. A dog’s temperature can raise at an alarming amount in a matter of minutes. This could be secondary to outdoor temperatures, decreased water access, poor ventilation (i.e. some dog houses), prolonged hair dryer exposure, increased humidity, vigorous exercise, etc. Brachycephalic breeds, or flat-faced breeds (such as pugs, boxers, Boston terriers, English bulldogs, or French bulldogs), are at an increased risk for “heat stroke” and may develop clinical signs with even slight increases in temperature or humidity. Symptoms may include abnormally colored, dry/sticky gums, an increased breathing rate, and lethargy progressing to bruising, seizures, and organ failure.
Heat stroke (hyperthermia) is a medical emergency requiring immediate veterinary care. If you suspect a hyperthermic episode, it is important to keep a steady stream of cool air on your canine friend while heading straight to the veterinary hospital, where stabilization, diagnostics, and IV fluids will likely be recommended. Prognosis is highly dependent on the severity of the episode and how quickly intervention is pursued. The summer can be a great time to enjoy outdoor activities with your beloved companion, but make sure to take precautions to “beat the heat” and remember that your pet may overheat much faster than you!