Dogs easily suffer from heat exhaustion when they are physically active in hot weather. A dog will suffer heat exhaustion first. Later, if not relieved from the heat, he can have a heat stroke. Dog who are stressed by heat can develop serious problems.
Some dogs, including Bichon Frises with their very heavy coats, are even more at risk than others.
What is a Dog Heat Stroke?
Because dogs don’t have body cooling mechanisms like you, they are not able to sweat. Sweating is how people cool down or get rid of excess heat.
The only way that dogs can cool themselves is by panting. When dogs pant, cooler air is taken into their lungs and their body heat is dissipated.
In addition, a dog also has blood vessels in his tongue and mouth that act as little heat exchangers, cooling his blood as the dog pants and his saliva evaporates.
However, panting does not cool a dog very quickly, and a hot dog can quickly get into trouble. When a dog’s body gets too hot and he cannot cool down fast enough, he suffers a heat stroke.
During a heat stroke, a dog’s temperature can reach 109 degrees F! That’s really high, as a dog’s normal temperature is 101.5 degrees F.
Heat stroke in dogs causes brain damage and it can be fatal. So, we need to be very careful with our dogs when the air temperature rises.
Risk for Dog Heat Strokes
Some dogs are naturally more at risk than others. If you have one of the following, you’ll need to be especially careful to protect your dog:
- Old dogs
- Sick dogs
- Fat dogs
- Dogs with heavy coats (Bichon Frises)
- Small headed, short-nosed breeds (Boxer, Pekingese, Pug, Mastiff)
- High energy dog that keeps playing and running in the heat (Bichon Frises)
- Hunting dog or watch dog who lives outside and cannot escape from the heat (usually not a Bichon Frise)
- Dogs with black hair (Dobermans, Rottweilers, Black Labradors)
Conditions for Dog Heat Strokes
When the weather gets hot, dogs are much more susceptible to heat stroke.
In fact, a dog can have a heat stroke, simply because of a lack of air circulation. Having a continuous flow of air (like the air from a fan) on a dog’s body helps to keep his temperature down. (Does your dog try to stick her head out the window of your car when it is moving?)
Dogs can even have heat strokes at 75 degrees F, if the air circulation in a room or car is poor. When the weather is hotter than 80 degrees, dogs are at an even greater risk.
Every year dozens of dogs die of heat stroke, because they were left in a car with the windows shut or only partially open. Sunshine on the car increases the heat in the car, and a dog who can’t get cool quickly enough, can easily die from the excessive heat.
Dog Heat Stroke Symptoms
When your dog is suffering from heat stress, she will have symptoms that will tip you off. Here are some of the warning signs to look for:
- Heavy or loud panting
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Deep red or purple tongue and/or gums
- Glazed eyes
- A frightened or staring expression
How to Prevent a Dog Heat Stroke
Fortunately there are ways to make sure that your dog does not suffer from a dog heat stroke. Here are some things that you can do:
Walks or Runs
If it’s hot outside, don’t jog with your dog or even take your dog for a walk. Take walks with your dog in the early morning or evening, when it’s cooler.
Make or Find Shade
Dogs will instinctively seek shade when they are hot. If your dog is outside, make sure there is some shade for her. If you go camping or your dog likes to be outside with you, beside the pool, consider getting a Pet Cot which allows air circulation all around your dog and a Pet Canopy to give her shade from the sun.
Cold water should be available all day. If you go for a walk or a trip in the car, make sure you take water for your dog. Consider buying a collapsible travel bowl for your dog so that he’ll always have water available.
A cooling bandana can help keep your Bichon cool. You wet the bandana, wring it out, and it will help your dog stay cooler. If you will be at home, consider a dog swimming pool for your Bichon. This portable one is foldable, and comes with a carrying bag.
On extremely hot days, place a wet towel on your dog or fill a kids’ wading pool with cold water for your dog.
Feed your dog early in the morning or late in the evening.
Avoid Hot Surfaces
Stand on the grass with your dog instead of hot cement or macadam. Hot surfaces can actually burn your dog’s sensitive paws.
Be Careful with Haircuts
Even if you have a puppy cut for your Bichon, don’t shave off all your dog’s hair. Leaving some hair actually protects her from sunburn and helps insulate her from extreme heat.
Leave Your Dog at Home
When you go out to run errands, leave your dog at home in hot weather. Even a very short time (5 minutes) can heat your car to temperatures that can hurt your dog. She will be much safer at home with the air conditioning or fan on her.
When we suffer from the heat, so do our dogs. So, when the temperature rises, it’s important to keep your Bichon Frise in mind and to take steps to keep her safe and happy.
And, most of all, keeping your Bichon comfortable will also prevent the tragedy of a dog heat stroke.