Heatstroke can affect any dog, even if you as a responsible, loving pet owner take all the precautions necessary to keep them cool. We live in one of the hottest places on earth, and when you combine that with a dog’s respiratory and physical cooling system, you can see how easily heatstroke can happen. The good news is that as long as you watch out for the symptoms, take a few emergency measures and most importantly get them to the vet right away – your dog should be fine. Just remember not to make the mistake of cooling them down too quickly.
The physiology of dogs and humans is about as different as you can get. When humans overheat, we’re able to sweat through glands located all over our skin, which evaporates and creates cooling. However, dogs only have sweat pads on their feet, so they rely on panting and heavy breathing to cool themselves, allowing moisture to evaporate from their tongue and their lungs.
One area where dogs and humans are similar is what we need to cool down from heatstroke. When someone is dangerously overheated, you might think that getting them as cold as possible in the shortest period of time would be best. For example, making them sit in a tub of ice cubes. This can prove deadly, as it causes the capillaries in the skin to contract rapidly, stopping them from sweating entirely. This prevents their inner organs from cooling, trapping their body heat instead of dissipating it. The same principle applies to the cooling of overheated dogs.
It’s always best to take your dog straight to your vet if you think they’re suffering from heatstroke, but in the meantime don’t make the possibly fatal mistake of trying to cool them too much and too soon. A better bet would be to place them in front of a cool fan, drape them in a wet towel (using room temperature water), allow them to lie in a few inches of water in a paddle pool/bathtub and make sure they are drinking plenty of fluids.
Follow these tips (and get them to a vet right away) and your dog should be just fine!