Summer is my favourite time of year, bugs and all! This sunny warm season can be dangerous for our dogs so it is important to take precautions to keep them safe from overheating. I have been putting my hot weather tools for my K9 hikers in place in preparation for the heat so I thought I would share some information about why the heat is dangerous and tips about staying safe.
Canine Hyperthermia (Heat Stroke)
(The following information on Canine Hyperthermia was taken from Julie Ott's Canine Foundations Canine Emergency First Aid Manual. To learn more about Julie's Canine Emergency First Aid courses and her other services, visit
It is important to know the signs and treatment of heat stroke so that you are prepared. Heat stroke occurs when the body experiences extreme overheating. Dogs are not capable of sweating to expel heat like humans, thus dogs must pant to rid themselves of excess body heat. If panting is inadequate, his body temperature begins to rise. Your dog's normal body temperature is between 38.33 degrees Celsius (101 degrees Fahrenheit) and 39.17 degrees Celsius (102.5 degrees Fahrenheit). If your dog's temperature reaches 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) he is experiencing heat stroke and requires first aid and veterinary assistance. If his temperature goes above 41.11 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit), he is in a severe state of heat stroke and requires immediate emergency veterinary attention.
Signs and symptoms of heat stroke:
- Rectal temperature above 40 degrees Celsius (above 41.11 degrees Celsius is severe);
- Bright red tongue and gums (above 41.11 degrees Celsius, gums will go pale);
- Thick, sticky saliva;
- Rapid, heavy panting; and
- In severe cases, dog will appear disoriented, weak and dizzy and may develop a bloody nose, diarrhea and vomiting. If left untreated, the dog may collapse and go into shock or slip into a coma.
Treatment for heat stroke:
- Remove your dog from source of heat.
- Get veterinary attention. Call your veterinarian, detail your dog's symptoms and body temperature and get instructions about how to proceed.
- Gently cool your dog with cool wet towels or use a cooling vest.
- Place on the neck and head to prevent brain swelling.
- Place on the groin and armpit regions to help cool the blood as it circulates through the body.
- Use a fan to increase evaporation and help cool your dog.
- Putting rubbing alcohol on the dogs paw pads can help speed up evaporation.
- Encourage your dog to drink cool (not cold) water.
- DO NOT place ice packs on your dog or immerse him in cold water as this can cause his body to go into shock.
Tips for Staying Safe!
There are a number of steps you can take to keep your dog from overheating. I have provided a few pointers from my heat safety protocol below. I hope you find them helpful!
- Carry an adequate amount of water for your hike duration and for the temperature. My pack has an insulated pocket designed to accommodate a three litre hydration bladder. I also have two 750 ml bottles that I add to my pack if I need more than three litres. A portable dog dish should be part of your pack all year long, but particularly in the summer. The hotter it is, the more frequently we stop for water.
Stanley, Eloise and Endo sitting nicely while I fill
the water dish for their water break. What good dogs!!!
- Consider hiking in a location that provides the dogs (and you!) an opportunity to swim. If the day is very hot, consider cutting your hike short and spending more time swimming that day. If you cannot get to a swimming spot, limit the duration of your hike.
Stanley was first to take the plunge! The rest eventually joined him.
- Carry cooling coats with you. I purchased mine from www.mustluvdogs.ca but there are numerous companies that sell them. I carry a large ziploc bag with ice water and the cool coats in it and I can place a coat on a dog if I think they need to cool down. I also often use the cool coat at the end of the hike just before grooming the dogs.
Endo and Eloise cooling off at the end of our hike.
- Never leave your dog in a closed vehicle. Consider crated travel (http://k9expeditions.blogspot.ca/2011/10/crated-travels-safe-dogs.html) because you can then secure your dog in your car safely and leave the doors open for adequate air flow. I have chosen to transport dogs in crates in part because when it is hot, I can leave the back of the van open when I stop to pick up and drop off my K9 hikers at their homes. Another reason I choose crated travel is because I am able to provide each dog with his or her own fresh water in their crate.
- Make sure you have a thermometer in your first aid kit in case you need to check a dog's temperature. You may wish to carry two thermometers and mark them as human or canine for obvious reasons!
A little knowledge and common sense will keep you and your dog safe as our summer heats up.
Happy, safe hiking!