Veterinarian warns high temps can lead to fatal heat stroke in dogs

Matt Matuszewski and his yellow lab Murphy play at Fetch Park at Boulevard and DeKalb Ave on Friday,  March 12, 2021.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Combined ShapeCaption
Matt Matuszewski and his yellow lab Murphy play at Fetch Park at Boulevard and DeKalb Ave on Friday, March 12, 2021. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Summer’s here, and the high temps can be dangerous for pets as well as humans.

A Gwinnett veterinarian is warning pet owners, specifically dog owners, about the dangers of leaving their pets outside for long periods.

Though heat stroke can affect both dogs and cats, it is seen more often in dogs, said Dr. Kaala Rawlinson, a veterinarian at Tiger Tails Animal Hospital in Duluth. Every year, during the summer and fall months, there is an increase of dogs with heat stroke. When heat stroke occurs, body temperatures are above 105 degrees, and it can cause inflammation and multiple organ dysfunction, Rawlinson said.

“Unlike humans, dogs and cats do not sweat. The only way for them to release heat is by panting,” Rawlinson said in a Tuesday email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Over the past month, Tiger Tails has seen at least four dogs, all who died, with heat stroke, Rawlinson said. All of the heat strokes the hospital has seen this year were in brachycephalic breeds, such as bulldogs, French bulldogs, Boston terriers, and pugs. This is due to their smaller windpipe and flat face, which causes a decrease in airflow, Rawlinson said.

Although it is often too late once owners recognize signs of heat stroke in their dogs, Rawlinson said, owners should watch for signs such as excessive panting and salivation, a blue-tinged tongue and low energy.

“Organ failure secondary to heat stroke may not be recognized until days after the insult,” Rawlinson said.

To prevent heat stroke, Rawlinson suggests these tips:

  • Always have fresh water available and a place for your pet to cool down.
  • Avoid walks during the hotter part of the day. Walks early in the morning or after dusk are best.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor exercise when it is hot. Provide more indoor activities.
  • During times of high heat, your pet should be closely monitored while outside and should not be outside longer than 20 minutes.
  • Watch for symptoms. If noted, take your pet to the closest vet or emergency clinic for prompt care. Hose down your pet in cold water prior to getting into the car and have the air conditioner on high. If your pet has been outside for a prolonged time and is excessively panting and can’t calm down, this could be a sign of heat stroke. When in doubt, it is best to let a veterinary professional evaluate your pet.