Preventing, Recognizing, and Responding to Heatstroke

Image courtesy Nashville Paw.

Image courtesy Nashville Paw.

Sunday and into the week are supposed to be the warmest days we've had all year, with temperatures into the 80s. Since we're moving toward summer and the sun sits higher in the sky, the sun's intensity is increasing as well. And all of these increase the risk of heat stroke when you visit the dog park.

So we pulled aside Dr. Barbara Muhlbacher, a veterinarian at Georgia Crossing Veterinary Center to ask her how to prevent heat stroke.

Here are her thoughts:

Bring Water

While we and our four-legged friends are jumping for joy that the dog park is finally open, it is important to remember that there is currently no water available at the park. The city is planning on having a water source at the park at some point, but it probably won’t be anytime soon. Therefore it is imperative to bring plenty of water with you when you take your dog to the park. This applies even when it's not a super hot day. Dogs need water when they're exercising just like humans, even on cold days.

Heat Stroke Causes

Playing in warm and hot weather brings on the danger of heat stroke, especially when dogs don’t get sufficient water to drink during playtime. Temperatures will reach the 80s early next week, and the trees have not yet fully leafed out to provide any shade, which increases the risk of overheating. 

Make sure your dog takes regular breaks during playtime. Regular breaks also give them a chance to drink water. If your dog isn't visiting the water bowl on his/her own, take your dog to the water bowl.

Heat Stroke Symptoms

Heat stroke is not just being hot. It is an emergency condition that needs immediate care. Signs of heat stroke include heavy panting, labored breathing, sudden lethargy or weakness; pale, blue or bright red gums (they should be a rosy pink), wobbliness, tremors or seizures, and collapse.

A high body temperature caused by overheating can cause organ damage within minutes, so immediate veterinary care is crucial for survival.

Heat Stroke Care

If you notice any of the above signs, immediately provide shade and a cool place (for example in an air-conditioned car) and plenty of water. Also, try cooling the dog by pouring water on him/her, then head to the veterinary hospital.

If the dog is having a seizure or has collapsed, you will not be able to give your dog water. Immediate veterinary care is critical to save your dog's life. The veterinarian will most likely need to give you dogs fluids through an IV.

There's a fine line between just being hot and having heat stroke. Err on the side of caution, for if you wait, it might be too late. If you recognize any of the above signs, immediately take your dog to the nearest veterinary hospital for emergency care.

Which Dogs Get Heatstroke

Short-nosed breeds like pugs, Frenchies and or other bulldog-type breeds tend to overheat more easily and quickly. Also, breeds with heavy coats such as Huskies, Newfoundlands, Chows, and other heavy-coated breeds all are at higher risk. But remember, any dog can get heatstroke.

So remember to bring water with you when you visit this great new park with your pooch!

Dr. Barbara Muhlbacher
Georgia Crossing Veterinary Center
11414 Georgia Ave, Wheaton, MD 20902
(301) 962-1902
gcvetcenter.com