Summer in the south is no joke. Around this time of year, it is not uncommon for the temperature to climb to the high 90s or even into the triple digits. If you spend much time outdoors, it is essential to take care of yourself, stay cool, apply sunscreen, drink lots of water, and be alert for the signs of heat-related illnesses, both in yourself and your furry friends.

Because dogs also have fur, they are at extra risk of overheating and suffering from heat stroke. Since they cannot verbalize how they are feeling it can be easy to miss the signs. However, if you know what to look for, you can also know how to prepare and keep your dog happy, happy, healthy, and safe. 

What Are the Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs?

Sometimes you can take all the precautions with your pup but still might have cause for concern. It is important that you recognize the symptoms of heat stroke in your dog, so you can know how to help them as quickly as possible. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Hard breathing. This could include panting, wheezing, or straining to catch their breath. 
  • Lethargy or disorientation. This could look like a normally active and energetic dog sleeping at unusual times or not responding quickly when its name is called.
  • Seizures. This can be as small as muscle twitching or as extreme as passing out.
  • Unusual-looking gums. If your dog’s gums are dry, the color looks different, or there is bruising on them, this could be a sign of heatstroke. 
  • High temperature. If a rectal thermometer reads higher than 103

Now that you know what to look for and can be prepared to help your dog if necessary. 

What Can I Do If I Think My Dog is Having a Heat Stroke?

If you suspect your dog might be suffering from heat stroke, first make sure to get them to a cool shaded place with access to a fan. Next, gently pour cool (not cold) water on their head, stomach, paws, and armpits. While you are applying the water, make sure the fan is running and blowing on them. Lastly, get them into a vet as soon as possible. 

Some things you can do to help prevent heatstroke include:

  • Leaving muzzles off. Muzzles restrict airways and keep dogs from being able to pant which helps them cool down.
  • Offering water. Encourage your dog to drink water after every walk or even if the dog has been playing out in the yard on a warm day.
  • Providing shade. If you need to leave your dog outside for a long time, make sure there is plenty of shade and water within easy access. 

Most importantly, whenever possible take your dog on a walk during the coolest parts of the day, early morning, or after the sun has set. 

Alternate Indoor Activities

Sometimes it is just too hot to take your dog out for anything other than a quick potty break. Because dogs still need mental and physical stimulation, you can try some of these activities in the cool of your home:

  • Tug of war. This is great for helping the energetic dogs stay active without the potential destruction of trying to play fetch indoors.
  • Puzzle games. You can hide a treat in one of several cups and then move them around. If they guess the correct cup, they get the treat as a reward.
  • Help with chores. If your hands are full (such as with laundry) you can have them push or pull open a door for you or point at something you need and have them fetch it for you.
  • Teach them a new trick. Hot days where walks are not possible are the perfect opportunity to try teaching that new trick you always wanted to try such as “Rollover” “Speak” or “Shake paws.”

As you try these, it may inspire other activities or interests that will keep your dog occupied indoors on warm days.