#K911 – Heat Emergencies – How do I keep my dog safe?


“Don’t Leave Your Pets In Cars” We hear it time and again during the summer, so much so that it’s almost as if you want to reply, “Yeah. No. Kidding?!”  Right?  The radio, news, social media – over and over again.

But the fact is, we see heat emergencies constantly from the moment the temperatures climb above 75*. Dogs come into our 24-7 Emergency room with heat stroke, burns on their paws and dehydration and are sometimes unconscious or in cardiac arrest.

So even though heat warnings are “everywhere” – Pet owners are not getting the message.

Early last summer a beautiful young dog presented to our critical care team with a body temperature of 107* degrees. His internal organs were shutting off due to being essentially- baked.   This pet was with his parents and they didn’t realize how stressed he had become, that his panting was not sufficiently cooling him even though they were in an air-conditioned car, and that by that evening, he would be put to sleep due to major organ failure.  What began as a drive on a summer afternoon, ended tragically for a well-meaning family.

Sadly, he was the first fatality of many last summer due to the effects of heat and heatstroke.

We know this is a blog in our local paper, and while we’re not trying to upset anyone, the fact is:

heat can and does kill dogs.   Unlike many other causes of death, it is almost entirely PREVENTABLE.   If knowledge of the seriousness, warning signs and some easy to follow recommendations can help the pets in our community, we want to share that information!

Here’s a list of preventatives, and suggestions to keep your pet safe:

  • Stay inside on the hottest part of the day – Be careful with humid days particularly.
  • Don’t ever leave a pet in a car– Temps can reach 140* degrees quickly
  • Keep them off the black top, driveways, decks sand and sidewalks that can burn their paws
  • Make trips outside short – and in early morning or after the sun has set and stay in the shade
  • Be aware of the weather! It may begin as a pleasant morning, but if temperatures, and humidity are rising during the day, it can get to unsafe levels while you’re already out and about.
  • Take good care of your dogs general health – Thick, matted fur, overweight dogs, pets that aren’t used to exercising are notgood candidates for a hike on a summer day!
  • Have WATER.A LOT of water.  For a medium sized dog, we suggest carrying at least a gallon of water or more – PER. DOG.  Why? Read on!
  • If your dog is – old, ill, has a chronic condition, or is ANY breed or mix with a ‘smushy face’ be extraordinarily careful. They can get into critical condition VERY quickly.
  • Have a towel, ice or frozen water bottles, a baby pool, shade, fans and some of the products designed for pets to stay cool!
  • Don’t let your dog run around and overdo it – we all know how quickly we tire and get dehydrated, dogs aren’t aware of the dangers and need your supervision.

Warning Signs:

  • Excessive Panting
  • Glazed Eyes
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased Heart Rate or Pulse
  • Body temperature of 104* (Normal is 101.5*)
  • Increased Drooling/Salivating – especially if it’s a very thick consistency
  • Bright Red Tongue
  • Red or Pale Gums
  • Weakness and Lethargy or becoming uncoordinated
  • Vomiting and/or Diarrhea
  • The progression of heat stroke can cause: Seizures, Coma, Cardiac Arrest and Death.



As the largest and most advanced veterinary hospital in the area, we are well equipped to handle practically anything – we have state of the art training, diagnostics and our teams have experienced many traumas, emergencies, and critical cases throughout the years, and what effects them the most? A dog who dies from heatstroke.

What can you to help a dog who is overheating?  Many of the following actions can be done simultaneously:

  • Get the dog inside to air conditioning and/or out of the heat – IMMEDIATELY
  • Give him small amounts of water if he is conscious and panting – don’t pour water into their mouth as you do not want it in the lungs by accident, or to cause them to vomit and become more dehydrated.
  • Get a fan or fans, to help cool them via evaporation
  • Cool their body with COOL not ICE COLDwater and then wipe it away – repeat this several times
  • Do not wipe or soak the dog in water, and then leave it on the fur. The water will heat up on the dogs’ body making them HOTTER.   Flowing water from a cool hose, or baby pool, creek, or shower, or dipping a towel in water ringing it out repeatedly will aide in lowering their temperature.
  • Get more water and take wash cloths, small towels and wipe their face and ears, neck and underneath their front and rear legs
  • If they will lie on a damp towel and let you place ice, cold water bottles or damp towels next to them – especially with a fan, the evaporation of the cooler air acts as a DIY air conditioner!
  • If possible, take their temperature – if it is below 103* stop the cooling process.Cooling them too much or with ice has other dangerous side effects!
  • And of course – CALL A VETERINARIAN and have your pet seen right away. Call them to let them know you’re coming!  We are here to help if you need us – 703-777-5755!

You may know that pets don’t “sweat” like we do- just a small amount via their paw pads. Their only mechanism for cooling their entire body is by panting.  If you think about that, you can see how easily they might overheat, and then how difficult it is to cool them down again.  Especially with a dog who already has an illness, thick hair, or, has a shorter airway – like a bulldog. This is why prevention, preparation and education is so important.

As pet parents ourselves, we LOVE many of the fantastic products available to help keep your pets cool – Water bottles with bowls, cooling vests and bandannas, bowls with cores that can be frozen, fans for crates and much more.  Check out one of the many stores in Leesburg – Happy Hound, DogGone Natural, Petsmart, or Petco or online – AmazonSmile and Chewy – and look for their summer selections. Your pet will be the coolest on the block! Literally!

Be prepared if you go anywhere this summer – bring a cooler with ice and water, plus some doggie towels to dampen if needed.  Do you see why you need a lot of water?!  If you need to do errands – visit stores/restaurants that allow you to bring your pet inside* – otherwise– please leave them at home with the A/C and a good movie on the TV!  😉

*Our next blog?  A pet resource guide!  Places to visit, shop, stay and hang out that ARE pet friendly in LoCo!!

Thanks for reading this week, please share with your friends who have dogs and follow our page on Facebook – for more tips about great pet care and the teams at The LifeCentre!

[Ask The Expert is a promotional program sponsored by Loudoun Now. The writers have held out that they have experience, training, education and/or certifications to qualify as experts in their fields. Although shared on Loudoun Now‘s online platforms, the writers are solely responsible for this content.]

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