Most of us exercise or train our dogs vigorously on a daily basis. This is NOT new information, just a reminder that your four-legged friend heats up very quickly when running amuck, even at 40 or 50 degrees!! When temps soar into the 70’s or higher, the danger to your dog becomes much higher, and ONLY YOU can prevent it, because many GSD’s are so driven that they won’t stop until they collapse from Heat exhaustion! Here’s how to recognize the onset, and treat it before it causes real damage, and even death!
Signs of Heat Stroke
The following signs may indicate heat stroke in a dog:
- Increased rectal temperature (over 104° requires action, over 106° is a dire emergency)
- Vigorous panting
- Dark red gums
- Tacky or dry mucus membranes (specifically the gums)
- Lying down and unwilling (or unable) to get up
- Collapse and/or loss of consciousness
- Thick saliva
- Dizziness or disorientation
What to do if You Suspect Heat Stroke
If you have even the slightest suspicion that your dog is suffering from heat stoke, you must take immediate action.
- First, move your dog out of the heat and away from the sun right away.
- Begin cooling your dog by placing cool, wet rags or washcloths on the body – especially the foot pads and around the head.
- DO NOT use ice or very cold water! Extreme cold can cause the blood vessels to constrict, preventing the body’s core from cooling and actually causing the internal temperature to further rise. In addition, over-cooling can cause hypothermia, introducing a host of new problems. When the body temperature reaches 103°, stop cooling.
- Offer your dog cool water, but do not force water into your dog’s mouth.
- Call or visit your vet right away – even if your dog seems better. Internal damage might not be obvious to the naked eye, so an exam is necessary (and further testing may be recommended).
Tip: recruit others to help you – ask someone to call the vet while others help you cool your dog.
Preventing Heat Stroke
There are ways you can prevent heat stroke from happening in the first place.
- NEVER leave your dog alone in the car on a warm day, regardless of whether the windows are open. Even if the weather outside is not extremely hot, the inside of the car acts like an oven – temperatures can rise to dangerously high levels in a matter of minutes.
- Avoid vigorous exercise on warm days. When outside, opt for shady areas.
- Keep fresh cool water available at all times.
Some dogs can recover fully from heat stroke if it is caught early enough. Others suffer permanent organ damage and require lifelong treatment. Sadly, many dogs do not survive heat stroke. Prevention is the key to keeping your dog safe and happy!