Dog heat stroke and dehydration are serious concerns during the summer months. My beagle–a loving, tri-colored little furbaby named Amber–isn’t just my pet: She’s my favorite jogging partner. Amber and I have been running together since she was a puppy. Sure, she runs off the path to chase squirrels from time to time and her incredible capacity for sniffing has been known to hold up a run or two … but for the most part, I enjoy getting my exercise with her by my side.

One time, though, our run took a turn for the worst. Amber behaved in a way I had never encountered before: She hunkered down and refused to move, looking up at me with tired eyes. I carried her home into my cool, air-conditioned apartment, but it took her more than a few hours to even attempt to lap up a bit of water. Luckily, Amber recovered pretty quickly–but it became apparent to me after doing some research online that she had suffered from dog heat stroke.

Dog Heat Stroke Warning Signs

Dog heat stroke and dog dehydration are serious matters. Our four-legged friends can’t tell us when they feel too hot, so dog overheating is really difficult to pinpoint. You can usually tell that Fido is dehydrated because his nose, skin and mouth will be less elastic and watery than usual. One way to test for dehydration is to rub your finger along your dog’s gums until they turn white. Remove your finger, and watch to see how long it takes for your dog’s saliva and gum color to return. If they don’t return quickly, the pup is likely dehydrated.

Apart from dog dehydration, pups can overheat relatively easily. If your dog isn’t used to being outside in the elements very often, you’ll want to pay close attention. If Fido seems disoriented or dizzy, or demonstrates unusual behavior, it is time to go to the vet. If left untreated, dehydration and heat stroke can cause organ failure and even death.

How a Dog Heat Stroke Happens

There are a lot of reasons why dogs are prone to overheating and dehydration. In nature, canines are pretty resilient and cope well with various temperatures, but the modern-day dog is usually not used to roughing it in 90-degree heat. If your dog is primarily an indoor dog, make sure that the pup isn’t exposed to extreme weather without taking routine breaks.

Some very dangerous conditions for dogs include:

  • Being outside for long periods of time without access to water

  • Engaging in unusual levels of physical activity on hot days

  • Being inside of hot cars (This is an absolute no-no on hot summer days!)

  • Working in fields for long hours

  • Accompanying owners on hiking or camping trips without plentiful shade and water

What to Do If Your Dog Has a Heat Stroke

If you think Fido may be suffering from a dog heat stroke or dehydration, take him to the vet immediately. In the meantime, gently sprinkle cool water all over his body. You can try to get him to drink some water, but dogs often avoid drinking when they are dehydrated. Call your vet and let him or her know that you’re on your way–this will allow the staff to prepare for treatment so your pup can get the help he needs as quickly as possible.