HOW TO PREVENT HEAT STROKE AND WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DOG IS OVERHEATED
DO you want to know how to keep your dog cool and prevent heat stroke this summer?
Every single pet parent in Dubai knows THAT feeling. That feeling of stress and worries creeping up inside you as the temperatures keep climbing and Dubai summer is coming closer and closer.
Tragically, many pets will die due to heat-related deaths in the next few months. UAE veterinarians report an increase in the number of heat strokes in dogs as the summer progresses and “too many dogs are dying of heat exhaustion”. If we are not careful, our dogs could also suffer from heart failure, brain damage and long-term damage to brains and organs due to the stifling heat.
The worries of heatstroke and overheating can be a big stressor to humans AND pets and it is important to know how to prevent overheating and what to do to help your pet cool down this summer.
In this blog post, we will share our top tips on how we are protecting our French Bulldog, Milka, during the UAE summer months, while still keeping her healthy, fit, and mentally exercised.
Table of contents
- Signs of Overheating
- What to Do If Your dog is Overheated
- How to Prevent Heat Stroke
Signs of overheating
It is incredibly important to know and recognize the signs of overheating. Our dog’s chance of survival heavily depends on our ability to recognize overheating at the very early stages.
Our dogs do not sweat the way that we do, they only have sweat glands in their nose and in the pads of their paws. It is harder for them to regulate their body temperature and cool themselves down. Dogs regulate their body temperature through panting, but if the air is too hot (which is usually the case in the UAE) our dogs may have difficulty in trying to cool down.
A dog’s normal body temperature is somewhere between 38 Celsius to 39 Celsius. A dog will start to experience heat stroke at over 40.6 Celsius and at around 41-42 Celsius, irreversible organ damage or death can occur. The cells of the body rapidly start to die, the brain swelling that often occurs can cause seizures, and dehydration leads to irreversible kidney damage. All these catastrophic events take place within a matter of minutes and we have the power to prevent all this.
When we go out on walks during the summer, we monitor our Frenchie’s breathing and panting, and we also constantly check our Frenchie’s ear temperature. The ears are a good indication of her body temperature. When her ears start to become very hot, that means it is time to go into a cool place.
Signs of a heat stroke include:
- Excessive panting
- Vomiting and/or Diarrhea
- Excessive thirst
- Glazed eyes
- Increased salivation (drooling)
- Dry gums that are pale or grayish
- Bright or dark red tongue or gums
- Rapid or erratic pulse
- Weakness, staggering, confusion, inattention
- Rectal bleeding
WARNING: Breeds with flat faces like Pugs, French Bulldogs or Boxers, overweight dogs, elderly dogs, and puppies are at even greater risk of overheating. Dogs with existing health conditions will also overheat faster. Darker coats absorb more heat than lighter coats.
What do I do if my dog is overheated or had a heat stroke?
You need to act immediately. The longer your dog suffers, the worse the damage will be.
Get your dog out of the heat immediately
Get them out of the sun and into an AC conditioned room or car, or a shaded area. You may have to carry your dog. If there is a lake, ocean or water nearby, you can also allow your dog to stand in it to help cool down.
Apply cool water onto your dog’s inner thighs, chest, belly, and paw pads.
Use a shower head, garden hose, or a different source of water, but do make sure the water is cool (not warm and not ice cold). We all know the #dubaiproblem of having only hot shower water in the mid-summer months, so you may have to use your bottled drinking water to cool your dog down. If your dog is usually stressed when it comes to showers or water, then it’s best to use a cool, wet towel and pat your dog’s head, chest, belly, armpits and paw pads down. Do NOT cover your dog with a wet towel as they need air circulation to cool down.
Take your dog’s temperature
If you can take your dog’s temperature (rectally) at the beginning of this process and record it, this would be helpful information for your veterinarian to have access to. Stop cooling down your dog once their temperature reaches 39 grad celsius. Further cooling could lead to blood clotting or a too-low body temperature.
Offer small amounts of fresh, cool (NOT ice cold) water
If your dog drinks too much water too fast, it could cause vomiting. If your dog is rejecting the water, you can offer cool bone broth instead. Do not force them to drink water. Do not give them ice water, this could cool them down too fast and shock their system.
Encourage your dog to slowly move around or stand up
This can help the cooled blood to circulate around the body.
Get your dog to the vet
Call your vet and let them know you’re coming in for an emergency so they can prepare. The effects of heatstroke can be invisible to the human eye so it is important to take your dog to the vet, even if they seem fine. The effects of heatstroke can continue for 48 to 72 hours.
Note: Disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC - when the blood becomes solid throughout the body) is the most common cause of death related to heatstroke and it can occur hours or days after a heatstroke. This is why it is important to visit your vet, even if your dog seems much better.
So how do I prevent heat stroke?
You have heard us say this a million times... In every aspect of pet health and wellness, prevention is better than cure.
As a pet owner living in the UAE, it is our duty to understand how to protect and prevent our dogs from getting a heatstroke. Here is how we prevent heat stroke in our French Bulldog, while keeping her fit and exercised.
Summer walkies 101
Unfortunately, there are a lot of neighborhoods in the UAE that do not offer many shaded or grassy walking paths. Most of us probably have to walk our dogs on asphalt streets. Our dog’s paw pads are not protected, so the hot pavement can burn their paw pads and the heat rising from concrete or asphalt can quickly overheat our dogs.
Please know this: If the outside temperature is 36 Grad, the asphalt can have a temperature of 65 grad celsius! Many of you have fake grass in the backyard or the balcony which can heat up just the same as asphalt. Also, be careful with hot sand which can burn our dog’s paws too.
Before you let your dog walk on the pavement, sand, or fake grass, always test the ground with your own bare feet or the back of your hand.
Walk your dogs early morning and late evening. Personally, in the mid-summer months, we walk our dog before 6 am and after 9 pm, with a quick pee break in between where we carry her to a piece of real grass. We always use a cooling vest for on our walks. When we’re in different residential areas we always test the ground before we let her walk anywhere. Oftentimes we walk barefoot with her because we realized that the pavement temperature varies from street to street.
It is also important not to over-exercise our dogs in the summer. Be mindful and remember our dogs may not always know when to stop, so it is our duty to make them stop when we notice any signs of overheating. We will speak about tips for summer exercises later.
Always try to walk the shaded areas, and if you let your dog into the backyard or take your dog on any outdoor adventures, make sure to offer them a shaded area to rest in.
Never lock your dog in the backyard and do not leave your dog unattended outdoors!
Many dogs, including our French Bulldog, love to lay in the sun, and many dogs do not know when enough is enough. As dog parents in the UAE, we need to make sure that we monitor our dogs when they are outside, and if they start panting, it’s best to take them inside to rest.
Cool vests for cool dogs
Let me tell you, we have tried every single cooling vest on the market for our French Bulldog. Many of the cooling vests required to be put into our freezer to work, which was inconvenient, and honestly a food safety concern because Milka loves to get dirty! Other vests that we tried just looked horrendous, or seemed to look more like a winter coat on Milka.
When we visited Crufts, the biggest pet expo in the UK in 2020, we finally found the perfect cooling vest for Milka. I honestly almost gave up but I am so incredibly glad that I gave this vest a chance. The Chiller Chien Vest from Aquamat became Milka’s best friend last summer and every single time we took her out on walks, we were absolutely amazed because Milka was able to take longer walks with much less panting. During the lockdown, we were able to spend lots of time playing monopoly on the balcony while Milka was chilling in a shaded spot with her cooling vest on not panting at all. This would not have been possible with any of the other cooling vests we had bought for her.
Many cooling vests on the market contain a cooling gel that can be toxic to dogs if they happen to ingest it. Aquamat cooling vests are made of a non-toxic material that does not contain any toxic cooling gel, which means it is safe for your dog to use. The vest does not have to be refrigerated, another win for convenience and safety. The vest is made of a specialized material which you simply wet and the vest cools down as soon as the water begins to evaporate.
This vest has really been a true life-changer for us and Milka. It makes Milka feel so much more comfortable on her desert walks and it takes away so much emotional stress from us, the humans, as we can be more relaxed knowing that Milka is being cooled down. That being said, even with a cooling vest, you should be taking extra precautions and follow the steps listed in this blog post.
Ice Cream with a twist!
Use a LickiMat to make your own frozen goodies for your dog. You can freeze yoghurt, kefir, bone broth, smoothies and so much more into a LickiMat and offer it to your dog as a midday snack. Milka loves taking her sweet time and can spend a good 30 minutes licking the mat, trying to get every little food particle out of it. Especially in the summer months, it helps her to stay cool and get that much needed mental stimulation. We always have a frozen LickiMat waiting for her in the freezer.
Cool drinks for cool dogs
Make sure your dog always has access to cool, clean, bottled water (not tap water). Always take a bottle of water with you on walks and offer it frequently. Cool bone broth is also a great option as a midday snack and source of minerals. You can also make your own electrolyte water. Holistic veterinarian Dr Dee Blanco recommends you mix a pinch of good quality sea salt (not table salt) into some cool sparkling water. The sparkling water helps get the minerals into the cells.
Let’s get wet
To help cool our dogs off, we can wet their body with cool water (not ice cold water). This is only recommended for short hair dogs.
For dogs with longer fur, and double coats, it is recommended to wet down the underbelly, chest, and paws, or lay down a wet towel for them to stand or lie on when they need to cool off.
Every gram counts!
I literally cannot stress the importance of weight management enough. Research shows that keeping our dogs lean and at optimum weight can literally extend their life. But keeping our dogs lean is especially important when we are trying to prevent heat strokes.
Every single extra gram of fat can put an extra strain on our pet’s body and can increase the risk of overheating.
At an ideal weight, we should be able to easily feel our dog’s ribs and there should be a visible waistline if we stand over our dogs and look down on them.
Since dogs in the UAE are less active during the summer months, we recommend reducing food intake and calorie intake to stay in shape. Milka eats about 50g of raw food less in the summer months compared to the winter months, but each individual dog is different and you may need to adjust your dog’s food according to their body type.
Keep them mentally stimulated
There are lots of ways to keep our dogs active and mentally stimulated during the summer months. Personally, we organize play dates at our house with our friends and their dogs where Milka gets the chance to exercise, play, and have fun with her friends in a safe, air-conditioned environment. It’s a win-win for humans and dogs!
You can also take your dog to daycare or indoor dog parks to get their exercise and socialization.
Something we highly recommend as well is mental stimulation by feeding and treating from a LickiMat! It is a natural boredom buster and stress relief! The act of licking releases endorphins in our pet’s brain that makes them calm and happy. The LickiMat Wobble is especially amazing as you can freeze different layers into the Wobble and it will take your dog HOURS to lick off all that goodness.
Here is what NOT to do
Do NOT shave your dog. Humans have a tendency to interfere with our dog’s natural layers of protection. Some people and even some groomers and vets believe that shaving a dog will help keep them cool down in the summer. This is a dangerous myth. Your dog’s coat actually helps to keep them cool and protects them from the sun. Your dog’s fur provides insulation and helps them cool down. A shaved coat lets the sun through to the skin which can lead to overheating, sunburn, and even skin cancer. If you have a dog with long hair, just make sure to brush them regularly to allow air circulation.
Never ever leave your dog alone in the car, not even for a few seconds. The temperatures climb dramatically fast and leaving windows cracked doesn't drop the temperature inside the vehicle. Leaving your car running with the air conditioner on is dangerous for many reasons. Just don’t leave your dog in the car by itself.
So here you have it. While the rest of the world's dog population is about to gear up for awesome summer fun, it’s about to get really steamy in the UAE.
Please take care of your dogs, be responsible and make sure you prevent overheating. Exercise wisely, use a cooling vest when your dog goes outside and make sure to keep your dog at optimum weight.
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About Charly Pruden
Charly is the mother of French Bulldog Milka, and Co-Founder of PAWDEGA. Charly has always had a passion for animals, but her passion for pet wellness activism began when Milka’s undiagnosed health issues were healed by adapting a natural, non-toxic, and proactive pet wellness lifestyle. Through extensive research, content creation, attending pet health conferences in the US, and working with world-renowned holistic and integrative veterinarians, Charly continues to raise awareness on important pet health topics to empower pet parents to help their pets live longer.
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