Thursday, July 10, 2014

#HotDogsAreForBBQs: Resources for Preventing Heat Stroke in Dogs

This time of year there's a lot of discussion about the heat's effect on our pets, namely our dogs. One of the "hot" topics circulating is risk of Heat Stroke. So what is Heat Stroke anyway?

Heat Stroke occurs when a pet's body temperature is abnormally high for an extended period of time. When this happens, the pet is no longer able to naturally cool itself. It is a life-threatening situation if not treated immediately.

So, how does Heat Stroke happen? It can be a combination of several factors including but not always: confinement in an enclosed area, lack of ventilation, dehydration, excessive exercise or excitement, and high humidity.

Let's talk about some of the above factors contributing to Heat Stroke:

Confinement in an enclosed area

When we think of a dog in an enclosed area, we often think of a vehicle right? The images, including our own Hot Dogs Are For BBQs campaign, show dogs locked in hot up, windows down, windows partway down...the list goes on.

It's true hot vehicles pose a huge risk to our pets! Rolling the windows down just isn't good enough. And don't count on the shade! When the sun moves (and it will), your vehicle will heat up in mere minutes. Regardless of whether your pet succumbs to Heat Stroke, we can all agree that it's just plain uncomfortable can't we? It would be interesting the watch the temperature rise on the thermometer in this photo (my friend Mandy sent me from Virginia a couple of years ago). PS. I love this police officer!

Lack of ventilation

It isn't just vehicles that require ventilation (air flow). It may surprise you to hear that an English Bulldog belonging to a previous dog walking client of ours died of Heat Stroke in their own condo! That's right, a high rise...without adequate ventilation. It was a true unexpected tragedy.

In order for heat to not accumulate within a space, there needs to be adequate ventilation. Again this is another reason that cracking the windows of your vehicle open doesn't work well. There's just not enough air actually circulating through your parked vehicle. Don't take a chance!


The hotter we become, the more that we need to replenish our bodies with water. The same goes for our pets. Ensuring your pet is well hydrated provides additional protection against Heat Stroke. The more dehydrated a pet becomes, the less able s/he is able to cool the body.

So, what can you do to help prevent Heat Stroke in Dogs?

1. Leave your pet at home! As our friend Preventive Vet says, friends don't make friends wait in hot cars. Leave your pet at home with adequate water and ventilation.

2. Take a pledge to keep your pets safe. One example is this great "No Hot Pets" campaign by Ontario SPCA. You can actually click their Pledge button and commit to keeping your pets safe!

3. Know the signs of Heat Stroke and the Pet First Aid to assist an animal in need. Here is some helpful information provided by Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid.

Possible signs may include and aren't limited to:
brick red gums
increased body temperature
increased heart rate
difficulty breathing
initial excitement which turns to lethargy

Pet First Aid for Heat Stroke:
Ensure your own safety.
Place animal in a cool, shaded area.
Submerge animal in cool water, keeping its head above water.
If you only have a hose, set it to spray the animal.
As the animal improves and is conscious, offer it small amounts of drinking water.
Monitor body temperature until it is back to normal (temperature for dogs and cats is roughly 38.5 degrees (+/- 1) Celsius, or 101 degrees Fahrenheit).
Stop the cooling process.
Dry the animal.
Seek Veterinary Care, and continue to monitor your animal's vital signs.

4. Share resources.
Be sure to tell your friends and family about the dangers heat can pose to our pets. Share the above resources and lead by example by providing excellent care for your own pets. If you would like a digital copy of our #HotDogsAreForBBQs campaign, please don't hesitate to email me to request one.

One additional resource we have to provide is the HOT DOGS video we participated in last year. In it, I share a real-life experience of a terrible mistake that almost cost my own dog's life.

I hope you found this posting useful! Together, we can make a difference.

Lisa Wagner
Operations Director
Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid