Dogs and heat: how four-legged friends regulate the temperature
Dogs don’t sweat, at least not in significant amounts. While we humans regulate our body temperature through the evaporation of sweat on our skin, dogs use the saliva that evaporates on their tongue and oral mucosa to cool their bodies. Dogs breathe heavily so that their saliva evaporates quickly. The basic rule applies: the faster dogs breathe, the warmer they are.
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But the problem with shortness of breath is this: if the ambient temperature is higher than the air the dog breathes, the saliva no longer evaporates. In this case, the cooling function is extremely limited and there is a risk of overheating. Temperatures above 34°C can already be dangerous for your dog’s circulation. Very high humidity can also prevent saliva from evaporating. There is also a risk of overheating and heat stroke.
Does my dog have heat stroke? These 3 signs point to it
1. Shallow, rapid breathing
If your dog has had heat stroke, his breathing will be very shallow and rapid. Usually for this, the tongue protrudes. This form of breathing is no longer suffocating. The muzzle may be closed or slightly open. Since the dog can no longer breathe normally, there is no temperature regulation. Overheating continues to increase.
2. Strongly reddened mucous membranes
Since the normal cooling effect in dogs occurs through the mucous membranes of the mouth, the higher the body temperature, the more blood is pumped to the mucous membranes. There it should be cooled, suffocating, and lower the body temperature. Heatstroke causes severe reddening of the skin on the palate and gums. You can also tell by the color of the mucous membranes if your dog is about to overheat.
3. Unbalance and passivity
If your dog is at risk of circulatory collapse due to overheating, he will no longer be able to walk normally. Movement problems and motor disturbances are common in heat stroke. Due to severe overheating, the muscles can no longer be properly supplied with blood and oxygen. The brain also suffers from heat. Many animals with heat stroke lie down and behave passively and sluggishly.
4. Profuse salivation
Under normal circumstances, shortness of breath causes saliva to evaporate in your dog’s mouth. Evaporative cooling cools the blood in the mucous membranes. If your dog has overheated, or even suffered heatstroke, you will notice extremely profuse salivation. As an emergency reaction to too high body temperature, an excess amount of saliva is secreted. Lots of saliva also means more evaporative cooling. However, your dog can no longer pant as usual if he has heat stroke. In this case, the increased flow of saliva does not lead to the desired cooling, but attacks the dog’s liquid reserves.
You must do it now!
In case of overheating and heat stroke, it is important to cool the dog immediately. Take your four-legged friend to a cool, shady place and let him drink cool or lukewarm water. You can also lower your body temperature by wrapping your dog in wet towels. Be sure to take your brave furry friend to the vet for professional aftercare.
If your dog is unconscious, take him to the vet immediately. During transport, the motto is: cool down and reduce the temperature as much as possible.