Summer is in full swing, with soaring temperatures and long, sunny days. Although it brings summer hikes, swims, and lazy days in the park, it should also come with a bit of caution. These super hot months can be very dangerous for your canine best friend. Dogs have a much higher chance of becoming dehydrated and overheated, with the potential to cause significant damage to their bodies. Be sure to be ready to quickly identify signs of dehydration and overheating, and know how to act immediately.
Dehydration can become very dangerous very quickly. Dehydration causes a loss of electrolytes, such as potassium, chloride, and sodium, and can affect many of the body’s systems, including muscle function. If left untreated, it can lead to organ damage or failure, or even death. Be sure to take extra caution this summer with your pup, and look out for the following symptoms:
Signs of dehydration in your dog:
- Loss of skin elasticity - you can test by gently pulling up on the skin at the back of your dog’s neck. If the skin doesn’t immediately spring back to its normal position, your dog may be dehydrated.
- Dry, sticky gums - you can perform another at-home dehydration test by checking your dog’s mouth for capillary refill time. Press your finger against your dog's gums until they turn white, then remove it. If the gums don’t regain color immediately, your dog could be dehydrated.
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting with or without diarrhea
- Reduced energy levels and lethargy
- Excessive panting, with or without activity or exercise
- Sunken, dry-looking eyes
- Dry nose
- Thick saliva
Dogs can also overheat very quickly, as don’t regulate heat as humans do. Humans sweat, and transfer the heat off their body. However, dogs don’t have the same sweat gland functionality. Instead, they increase their breathing rate by panting to cool their bodies, pulling cool air into their systems, and exhaling heat. However, it is not as quick to cool. Overheated dogs can suffer heat exhaustion, heat stroke or sudden death from cardiac arrhythmias. The signs for dehydration and overheating are similar! Be sure to be on the lookout of the following signs of overheating:
Signs of overheating:
- Panting, followed by disorientation and fast, noisy breathing could signal overheating. Other possible signs: Collapsing or convulsing, bright red or blue gums, vomiting and diarrhea.
- Excessive Panting - look out for panting that exceeds a norma ratel for the amount of activity they are doing or after no activity at all
- Excessive Drooling - although some pups have a tendency to drool more than others, a dehydrated dog may have thicker and stickier saliva that helps the dog dissipate heat more efficiently when panting.
- Fast and Irregular Heartbeat
- Rapid or panicked breathing
- Lethargic Behavior or Disorientation - your pet may stumble when walking or bump into things around them
- Collapse. Intense overheating may cause your dog to collapse, and there may be other signs of neurological distress such as convulsions. At this level, it’s an emergency, and you should call an ambulance to get your pet to the Vet.
How can you prevent your pet from overheating or becoming dehydrated?
Ok, now we know the signs! Memorize them and be on alert all summer for your furry friend. If you see signs of either dehydration or heat exhaustion, act quickly:
- Get them indoors to a cool place, like an air-conditioned room or in front of a fan.
- Place cool, wet cloths or towels on their neck, armpits, or behind their hind legs. You can also gently wet their ears and paws with the cool water. Just make sure it is not super cold, as it can cause dangerous blood pressure changes.
- Offer them small amounts of cold water at a time, but try not to allow them to gulp too much, as they may vomit, which will make matters worse. It may help to give ice cubes to lick!
- Call your vet. It is likely they will tell you to bring them in ASAP, and they will be prepared for your dog’s treatment when you arrive.
We encourage hiking, park days, and any time in the sunshine, but always do it safely! Here are a few ways you can prevent dehydration and overheating:
- NEVER leave your dog in a parked car. Even in the shade and with cracked windows, temperatures can spike incredibly quickly.
- Take your pups out in the early mornings or later in the evenings when temperatures are not too high.
- Limit the amount of activity outside during hot days. Adequate exercise is of course important, but not at the risk of high temperatures. Sometimes it is ok for them to sit out on a hike or two!
- Be sure to bring plenty of extra water with you when outside. You will always need more than you think! It is also helpful to bring snacks that are high in electrolytes and hydrating, such as dog-safe fruits.
As always, if you are ever in doubt of your dog’s safety or well-being, make sure to call your urgent care vet ASAP! Dehydration and heat exhaustion can become very dangerous very quickly.