Tips on avoiding heat stroke and a trip to the emergency room

Summer is in full swing and heat waves are starting to take their toll on humans and animals alike. During periods of extreme heat, taking your dog jogging or running errands can result in heat stroke, turning a normal outing into a crisis situation. Unlike humans, dogs do not possess sweat glands and their fur naturally traps heat. Panting is their main method of cooling down, but excessive panting, a natural reaction to overheating, can lead to further fluid loss and dehydration.

To avoid heat stroke, limit playtime outside, stay in shaded areas, and always keep a supply of fresh water nearby. Never leave your dog inside your car during extreme heat. Even with car windows cracked, temperatures inside a car can rise 20 degrees in just 10 minutes given an outside temperature of 90 degrees.

While all breeds are at risk for heat stroke, dogs with especially thick fur, hyperthyroidism, heart or lung disease, breathing difficulties, or those who are overweight are even more susceptible. In addition, “companion dogs are much less likely to stop running or protest when they become overheated, especially if their owner is running or biking with them,” said Dr. Edward Cooper, head of Emergency and Critical Care at the VMC. “During extreme heat owners need to pay special attention and look for any signs that their dog may be suffering from overheating or exhibiting signs of heat stroke.”

Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Bright red tongue, gums, or skin
  • Marked warmth of the skin
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth
  • Weakness, vomiting, and/or diarrhea

Left untreated, heat stroke can cause serious damage to organs and may lead to seizures, shock, collapse, coma, and death. If you notice symptoms relating to heatstroke, seek veterinary care immediately. Do not immerse your dog in ice or cold water, which can lead to shock. Instead, cool off your animal with room temperature or cool water and place him or her in front of a fan while you prepare for a trip to your veterinarian.

For more information on when to take your pet to the emergency room, read Dr. Cooper’s list of serious symptoms in the Update newsletter.


About the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State

Founded in 1885, The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine is ranked fifth in the nation and includes more than 1,000 faculty, staff and students in the Departments of Veterinary Biosciences, Veterinary Clinical Sciences, and Veterinary Preventive Medicine. The Veterinary Medical Center is one of the largest specialty referral centers in the world, with more than 35,000 farm, equine, and companion animal patients each year. A nationally-recognized ambulatory practice and teaching unit in Marysville, Ohio provides farm animal experience to every veterinary student, and the Food Animal Health Research Program in Wooster, OH focuses on detection, control, and prevention of disease. Located on the only campus in the country with a comprehensive medical center offering seven health sciences colleges, we admit up to 162 veterinary students per class, and offer a new comprehensive graduate program in Veterinary and Comparative Medicine as well as a unique Master’s degree in Veterinary Public Health, in partnership with the College of Public Health.