Its Not Just the Hottest Days that Kill (heatstroke in dogs)

Heatstroke kills dogs, pure and simple. This is common knowledge, but did you know that it’s not always the hottest days of the year that are the most dangerous?

the most dangerous days for heatstroke with a hot panting dog

Can you get a dog used to the heat so that they built up a tolerance and so can work or perform agility when it’s hot outside? - Lilia

The very short answer is yes, but within reason.

Heat Stroke Temperatures

It's not always the actual temperature that results in heatstroke. As silly as this sounds, the actual temperature outside isn't always the main problem.

What heatstroke is, is hyperthermia. The body temperature rises to dangerous levels and is a potentially fatal condition. Where we can also get a dangerous situation is from a sudden increase in temperature, and that can be just as dangerous as a hot day in the middle of summer.

The classic example of this is an unseasonably warm spring day where the temperature is nowhere near as hot as it usually is in the summer. But it's an abnormal temperature for that time of year. It might've been quite cool, There might've been a cool breeze, The sun might not have been out, but then you get this glorious day where the sun comes out.

There's no breeze and all of a sudden, it is a lot hotter than it normally is at that time of year and than it has been for the preceding day.

The dog then hasn't had a chance to build up a tolerance. This is the situation when we will often see heatstroke, hyperthermia, and potentially death.


Humidity also plays a role.

A sudden increase in humidity as well can mean the dog's ability to lose heat is also compromised. This is because when things are humid, you get less evaporation, and so the dog is less able to cool itself by dumping heat through panting. This is because panting requires the evaporation of the saliva, which then takes heat away from the body.

If the saliva can't evaporate, then the dog can't lose heat.

It's just like us when it's humid. We get hot and sticky. That's because the sweat can't evaporate. As a result, we can't cool down naturally.

Dogs are the same.

Developing a Heat Tolerance

When temperatures gradually increase, the dog will naturally get more used to them and will be able to do more when it gets hot.

If you are moving into an area, traveling, or going to an event, it's going to take a little bit of time. However, if you're moving a couple of weeks beforehand, then you can just slowly, gradually increase the exercise that you are doing, and your dog will gradually be able to do more and more without overheating.

Having said all of that, no matter how used to the heat the dog is, when the temperature is climbing in the middle of summer, or if you live somewhere hot at any time of year, in the middle of the day you’ll need to restrict their activity to early mornings or evenings when it's cooler.

No matter how well tolerated they are, if the temperature is hot, then they are just going to struggle and this can be dangerous. Even fatal.

Look out for the Signs of Heatstroke

You should also be aware of the signs of heatstroke in dogs, and know how to cool your dog down if they do start to overheat.

It’s been shown that for owners whose dogs were developing heat stroke, if they managed to take steps to cool them down before they were brought to the vet for emergency treatment, their chances of survival massively increased.

I've got all of the details of the signs of heatstroke, and how to cool your dog down, and also how to keep them cool in the first place in my free hot weather dog care guide.

The above is a transcript taken from “The Dr Alex Answers Show”.

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