How to Help Dogs Handle August Heat

Caught in the middle of another scorching summer, many pets will be feeling the heat just as intensely as their owners. For dogs, the hot weather isn't always just uncomfortable, it can be dangerous too.

To keep your pets safe during hot spells, it's important to take precautions to guard against heat stroke and to quickly spot the signs if your dog becomes sick.

What Are the Symptoms of Heat Stroke in Dogs?

"Heatstroke has different symptoms per stages," Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer at the American Kennel Club (AKC) told Newsweek.

"If your dog is experiencing heatstroke in the early stages you will notice heavy panting, rapid breathing, bright gums and tongue, issues with balance, and excessive drooling."

As their condition worsens, they may experience white or blue gums, extreme lethargy, unwillingness to move, inability to stop urinating or defecating, labored breathing, shock.

What Other Heat-Related Illnesses Should Owners Be Aware of?

It's not just heat stroke that you need to watch out for.

"Light skinned and hairless dogs are also at risk for sunburn," Dr. Travis Arndt, Director of Veterinary Medicine at Animal Medical Center of Mid-America, told Newsweek.

If your dog is at risk of sunburn, make sure they avoid direct sunlight.

Which Dogs Are Most at Risk?

Some breeds cope better in the heat than others. Dogs with shorter snouts, such as Pugs, Bulldogs and Boxers, typically have greater difficulty breathing and can find it hard to maintain regular breathing in extreme heat, AKC states.

"They have a harder time in the hot weather because they do not pant as efficiently as longer-nosed dogs. These breeds are better off inside with air-conditioning," Klein explained.

"Very large breeds weighing over 110 lbs, as well as dogs who are overweight and/or elderly are at an even greater risk of heat-related medical issues," Arndt added.

Both puppies and older dogs are at a greater risk, as are overweight and inactive dogs. Medical conditions including hypothyroidism, cardiac disease and laryngeal paralysis can also contribute to heat stroke, says AKC.

Dog drinks water from plastic bottle
A thirsty yellow labrador shares a drink of water from owner's plastic bottle on a hot day. Getty Images

What Causes Heat Stroke in Dogs?

Being locked in a hot car is the most common cause of heat stroke in dogs. In many states it's illegal to leave an animal confined to a parked car while unattended.

As a precaution, Klein said dogs should never be left alone in an enclosed car in temperatures above 65 degrees.

Arndt agreed, adding: "Never leave a dog unattended in a parked car for any amount of time if it's hotter than 70 degrees outside. The temperature inside a car can soar past 100 degrees very quickly and temperatures above 110 degrees can be fatal in minutes."

According to the Humane Society, the temperature inside a parked car on an 85-degree day can reach 120 degrees in just 30 minutes and potentially lead to irreversible organ damage or even death.

Other causes include restricting your dog to an area in direct sunlight, without shade or water.

Klein added: "Always check on your dog if they are outside. Keep in mind if you put your dog in what appears to be a shaded area, the sun moves which means that area may have direct sunlight several hours later."

Dog shakes off water
An Australian Cattle dog shakes water off of her coat while standing next to a pool. Getty Images

How to Treat a Dog Suffering From Heat Stroke

"The best thing to do is to immediately cool them down," Klein said. "Try getting him into the shade, spraying him with cool or tepid water, and fanning him. After spraying and fanning, get the dog into an air-conditioned car or room if possible."

You can use ice packs or cold towels on their head, neck and chest, or run cool water over their body, according to the Humane Society.

They should be allowed to drink small amounts of water or lick ice cubes.

When Should I Seek Medical Intervention For My Dog?

More severe cases of heat stroke will require veterinary attention.

"If you've tried cooling them down by giving them water, providing them shade, and nothing is working, seek medical intervention.

"Heatstroke can be very dangerous and have a cascading chain of effects which can turn lethal. It's always a good idea to have your dog checked out by a vet as soon as possible following any concerning incident," Dr. Klein said.

How Can I Keep My Dog Cool in the Summer?

There are things you can do to help your dog avoid getting sick and feel more comfortable in hot weather.

It's important to make sure your dog always has access to water, Klein explained: "Make sure your dog has access to plenty of cool, fresh water 24 hours a day. When you go out, make sure you have water readily available for your pet."

They also need plenty of access to shade and lots of opportunities to rest, AKC says. Raised canvas beds can provide a cooler space to lie down than traditional dog beds.

Some dogs may enjoy relaxing in a kiddie pool, or a cold bath, though you should never leave your dog unsupervised in a body of water.

If temperatures exceed 90 degrees outside, it is best to keep dogs indoors according to Arndt.

Golden retriever swims in pool
A golden retriever swims in a pool. Getty Images

Should I Walk My Dog on a Hot Day?

You may find that your dog is less active when temperatures are high, but you should still take extra precautions.

Exercise your dog early in the morning, or in the evening when it's cooler, Klein advised.

Be wary of sidewalks as hot asphalt can burn your dogs paws so try to stick to grass if possible.

"All dogs run the risk of paw pad burns if their feet come into contact with hot sidewalks or asphalt," Arndt explained.

You can easily test if the sidewalks are too hot for your dog: "If it's too hot to keep your hand on the pavement for 10 seconds, it is too hot for a dog's paws," Arndt said.

Family play with dog and garden hose
A family plays with their golden retriever and a garden hose. Getty Images