Preventing Heatstroke in Dogs

We call it the “Dog Days of Summer”, but did you know how dangerous the dog days can be for your dog? Heatstroke is one of the most common emergencies we see at OVS in the summer, and in most cases it’s highly preventable. Unlike humans who lose heat through their entire body via their skin, dogs can only get rid of heat through their mouths and respiratory systems. High humidity and low winds (i.e. your typical Oklahoma summer) can be particularly dangerous for dogs.

Overheating can be deadly when severe, not to mention devastating to pet owners. We all know not to leave our pets in the car (ever!), but heatstroke can happen in many other situations as well. I’ve put together some tips for keeping Fido safe and cool, as well as a bit of heatstroke first aid should your pooch find himself overheated this summer.

Keep ’em Cool Pointers:

1. Exercise your pet in the coolest part of the day. Dawn and dusk, or after dark, is safest. If it’s hotter than 85F outside, use extreme caution and keep it short.

2. Soak your pet down before exercising. A quick stop at the hose before heading out will help your pet lose more heat through evaporation. Additionally, if there are lakes or creeks nearby, re-wetting your pet during exercise and play helps prevent overheating.

3. Consider a summer cut in long-coated breeds. It’s a myth that dense fur shields dogs from the heat. You don’t want too close of a shave, though, as this may make your pet susceptible to sunburn. Leave coats at least an inch long.

4. Carry water at all times. Rover’s hydration is just as important as yours.

5. Choose wooded areas over concrete. They’re cooler, and the grass is much kinder on your kiddo’s paws.

6. Pick a relaxing activity. If your pet is a tennis ball fiend, you might want to avoid playing fetch in the heat. Dogs with high-drive personalities may not know their own limits.

What If My Dog Starts Showing Signs of Heatstroke?

1. Get to a veterinarian immediately. This is the single most important thing you can do. Do not delay driving to the vet – this is not a wait-and-see condition.

2. Soak your pet down with cool (not icy) water.

3. Provide cool (not icy) water to drink.

4. Place your pet near the AC vents in the car while driving to the vet.

5. And once again, get to a veterinarian immediately. If your vet is across town, go to the nearest hospital that is open. Ten minutes can make all the difference.

Keep your critters cool – have a happy and safe summer, folks!


Dr. Johnson

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