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Heat stroke prevention: Watch dog for signs of heat stress

Q: I often take my dog, Gertie, to outdoor restaurants, concerts and other activities. The weather has been warm lately, and I’m wondering how I’ll know if she’s getting overheated. What are the signs of impending heat stroke?

A: Watch Gertie closely, because heat stroke can develop fast. You need to be on the lookout for signs that the warm weather is beginning to stress her, so you can take action to prevent heat stroke.

Heat stress is marked by rapid breathing, excessive panting, bright pink gums, increased heart rate and/or decreased energy. If you see any of these signs, get Gertie into an air conditioned building and offer her cool water. Cover her with wet towels or spray her with cool water. Don’t use ice water or apply ice to her skin, because that will constrict her blood vessels and impair heat dissipation. A fan can also help cool her body.

Any dog can develop heat stroke, but certain dogs are at increased risk: youngsters and seniors, overweight dogs, those with short muzzles or thick coats, and dogs with health problems such as heart disease or laryngeal paralysis.

Half of all dogs that develop heat stroke die of it, despite veterinary treatment, so it’s important to recognize the early signs and prevent it.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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