Dogs and heat: beware!

When temperatures rise, the desire to go for a walk or roadtrips comes up and it's quite normal (smelling new smells, there's nothing better! 🐶). But did you know that from 15°C, there is already a potential danger for your dog? Yes, it's not only in summer during heat waves that you have to be careful! Here are a few tips that could, who knows, save you from incidents.

How does your dog regulate his temperature?

First of all, it is important to know that dogs do not regulate their body temperature in the same way as humans. While you regulate your body temperature mainly by sweating, we dogs sweat less. Indeed, we have only few sweat glands (= glands located under the skin that allow us to regulate our body temperature by sweating) and these are only located on our paw pads and our nose.

We then use panting, i.e. we breathe in cool air to expel hot air through our tongue. The evaporation of the water present on this one as well as our mouth and our respiratory tracts will allow the regulation of our body temperature.

Heat stroke and its symptoms

The normal temperature of a dog is between 38°C and 39°C. From 40°C, we talk about heat stroke. This one is in fact a high increase of the body temperature. Moreover, it must not reach 43°C, otherwise, the vital prognosis of your dog can be strongly engaged.

Heat stroke can happen when your dog is exposed to high temperatures, but also during an intense effort.

You should also know that some breeds such as bulldogs or boxers are more prone to heat stroke. Indeed, their short and crushed muzzles make it difficult for them to pant in an optimal way. Puppies, older or sick dogs may also have more difficult to regulate their body temperature. Special attention can also be paid to dogs with black (or dark) fur, as this color absorbs energy from the sun's rays and causes a rise of temperature.

The main signs of heat stroke are:

  • Increased body temperature
  • Strong increase of the respiratory frequency
  • Hypersalivation
  • Dark red buccal mucosa
  • Apathy
  • Trembling
  • Vomiting

How to react in case of heat stroke?

  • Cool the dog down gradually (too fast can cause negative effects). Ideally, place him in a cooler place or at least in the shade. If you are in a car, turn on the air conditioning.
  • Cool it down with cold sources like ice cubes or ice packs. Wrap them in a towel and place them on the inside of his thighs to cool him through the large vessels (femoral arteries and veins), rather than the small vessels in his paws. This could cause vasoconstriction (= decrease of the diameter of the blood vessels) and not absorb the cold.
  • Hydrate him by giving him tempered water to drink.
  • If you have the possibility, take his rectal temperature regularly and do not move him until his temperature goes below 39°C, otherwise your dog will continue to heat up during the journey.
  • If your dog is no longer conscious, place him in a right lateral position to relieve his heart and call your vet immediately (list of vets on duty here)!
  • Go to a veterinarian, so that he can give him a treatment adapted to his condition.

How to prevent heat stroke?

  • ​​​​​In all cases:
    • Your dog should always have the opportunity to drink.
    • If your dog does not drink much, you can give him wet food. If you don't have any, you can put some water in the kibble.
    • There are several ways to cool your favorite 4-legged friend such as cooling mats or vests, doggie ice cream (yes it exists 😉) or misters.
  • On a walk:
    • Opt for long walks rather in the morning or evening, when temperatures are lower.
    • Try to stay away from asphalt (risk of burning the paw pads). You can do a small test with the back of your hand. Place it on the surface for about 7 seconds. If it is too hot for you, it will be too hot for your dog.
    • Also, avoid having your dog do too much intense activity.
  • In the car:
    • Never leave your dog alone in the car.
    • You can place sunshades to reduce the effect of the sun.
    • If your dog is in the trunk, make sure the temperature is optimal. The temperature in the front is not necessarily the same as in the back.

All of the above tips are even more important to follow during a heat wave!

When the car becomes a real oven!

Unfortunately, too many deadly incidents still happen when a dog is left alone in a car. Indeed, it only takes an outside temperature of 15°C to put him in danger. Here is a chart that will allow you to see the evolution of temperatures in a car:

Sometimes a video is more revealing than words, here is a video from the TCS explaining the dangers of an overheated car interior (video below is in French, but it is also available in German and Italian) :

You can see that in a few minutes, extreme temperatures can be reached, even when the windows are half-open and the car is in the shade. So, before you hit the road, ask yourself if it's really necessary to take your dog with you and, if it is, make sure he never stays alone in the oven... um... the car. 😉

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