Never leave your dog unattended in a car on a hot summer’s day, even in the shade. Dogs are only able to regulate their temperature through panting and through sweating between their toes. As the temperature increases in the car their temperature regulation becomes less and less effective. They can very easily overheat and suffer from heatstroke, which can lead to organ failure and, in extreme cases, death. Dogs with flat noses e.g. bull dogs, are more susceptible to heatstroke.
For dogs to overheat they don’t necessarily need to be in a confined space. Long walks in the middle of the day with little shade should be avoided. Walks should be scheduled at the cooler times of the day i.e. in the early morning or late afternoon, to avoid the risk of overheating.
Signs that your pet has heatstroke:
- Excessive panting
- Thick saliva
- Red gums
- Increased body temperature
- Progressing to vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, weakness, seizure and coma.
What do do:
- Get your pet into a cool environment immediately e.g. air-conditioned room
- Wet your pet with cold water. Especially the areas with little hair covering e.g. stomach, groin, under arms.
- Offer your pet cool water to drink
- If your pet is having problems with breathing do the following steps in the car on the way to your vet.
- Never cover your pet with a wet towel. It traps in the heat.
- Blow fans on your pet once they are wet.
- In extreme cases submerge your pet in a cold bath (no ice).
- If you have a thermometer, take your pet’s temperature regularly, making sure your pet doesn’t get hypothermia (the opposite to overheating). Your pet’s temperature should not go below 37.5 C.
- Always take your pet to the vet after overheating. They will need a checkup to make sure there has been no adverse effects following the overheating e.g. laryngeal swelling, kidney or liver damage.
Written by Dr. Megan Kelly