Prevent Heat Stroke for Dogs this Summer

by Marlee Middlebrooks

 Photo: Morgan Solomon

Photo: Morgan Solomon

Summers in Georgia lend themselves to embracing new memories. Some equate the hot months to pool days and barbecues while others imagine long walks and outdoor activities. Though these months are often anticipated, it’s important to recognize how the rise in temperatures may negatively affect animals. Fun summer memories could become nightmares if your dog suffers from heat stroke.

“The biggest concern that I think about for summertime would be heat stroke in dogs, especially since we live in Georgia,” said Sarah Clifton, veterinarian at Hope Animal Medical Center in Athens, GA. “It’s a very serious thing, and if it’s not treated quickly and appropriately, it does have a high mortality rate.”

Heat stroke is defined as extreme hyperthermia, when the dog’s body temperature is between 106 and 109 degrees Fahrenheit.



There are several factors that predispose an animal to developing heat stroke. These may include: type of dog, obesity, heart disease, age, hair coat and color, a previous heat stroke episode, being confined to a warm area, or no access to shade or fresh water. 

“Brachycephalic breeds such as boxers, bulldogs and pugs have flat faces. They already have a hard time breathing on their own,” Clifton said.



Unlike humans, animals do not give off much heat through sweating. It is important to recognize signs that may mean your dog is suffering from heat stroke. These can include: excessive panting, inability to rise, collapsing, increased respiratory rate, increased heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, or appearing mentally dull or depressed.



Heat stroke may damage several of a dog’s main tissues or organs. They could experience kidney failure, fluid buildup in the brain, liver damage, cell damage or gastrointestinal tract damage. “[Heat stroke] can cause the gut to die, and if that happens, we worry about bacteria that can go into the blood,” Clifton said. 



Several habits can be practiced when caring for your dog to help prevent heat stroke. Never leave your dog in a car. Make sure your animal has adequate shade and water if it is going to be outside during the warmer parts of the day. In some cases, you may want to shave the animal’s coat.

“Taking your dog for a run in the middle of July when the temperature is 93 degrees is probably not the smartest thing to do for your animal, especially if it is a black lab,” Clifton said. “If you want to take your animal for a run, do it in the early morning or the late afternoon or evening.”

However, if your dog does begin developing heat stroke, there are several measures you can take.

“The most important thing that you need to work towards is reducing the core body temperature of that animal,” Clifton said. “It’s important to get [the dog] to a veterinarian, but it’s just as important to try to cool the animal even before rushing the animal to the vet.”

Some steps an owner may take when trying to reduce body temperature are: removing the animal from the hot area, placing the animal in a cool water or ice water bath, letting the animal lay on a cool floor or place a fan near the dog.

“Try to bring the temperature down quickly. If you have a thermometer, do a rectal temperature... The faster you get the temperature down, the better the prognosis will be,” Clifton said.