Heatstroke and Dehydration: How to Keep your Westie Safe During Summer

Do you know the symptoms of heat stroke and dehydration, and did you know there is a difference? Faye Andrews keeps us in the loop.

Heat Stroke

If your Westie has a thick coat, then a trip to a good groomer to either thin the coat or a good trim is important for the summer months. If the issue is obesity, decrease their calorie intake. During the hot months, our four-legged friends will be less active and therefore need less calories.


Stick to the coolest parts of the day, either early morning or late afternoon/evening. Keep strenuous exercise to a minimum and have plenty of fresh water with you when out walking. Remember, if it is too hot to keep the palm of your hand on the pavement for 15 seconds, then it is too hot for your dog to walk on. This will help prevent footpad burns.


Make sure your dog always has access to fresh water and keep it in a shady area. During the hot months it is very easy for bacteria to grow so make sure the water bowl is cleaned regularly. DO NOT wait for your dog to become thirsty on a walk, keep them hydrated by encouraging them to drink little and often. Dogs (and cats) are also prone to sunburn, especially those with thin or white fur. Use a pet specific sun cream and apply it to their nose and ears. Whether out for the day or just relaxing at home always make sure your dog has somewhere cool out of direct sunlight to relax in. The area should have ample airflow and remain ventilated throughout the day.

The Difference Between Heatstroke and Dehydration

Heat stroke occurs when the core body temperature exceeds the normal range and the ability of the pet to lose heat and cool itself down.

Symptoms Include:
Distressed breathing
Rapid pulse
Heavy panting
Bright red tongue
Lethargic and weak
Collapsed or stumbling
Muscle tremors


This occurs when the dog loses more water and electrolytes than it is taking in. As water plays an important role in virtually every function of the body, dehydration can cause severe issues with internal organs, body temperature, joints and digestion.

The dog’s body naturally loses water throughout the day through:
Evaporation through the paws

This is compensated for when our furry companions eats and drinks. As mentioned earlier dehydration occurs when the fluid intake is less than what they are losing, their body’s blood flow and volume of fluid is reduced which reduces the delivery of oxygen to organs and tissues. Dehydration is a very serious concern as it can lead to kidney failure, loss of consciousness, and in extreme cases it can be fatal.

Symptoms include:
Loss of skin elasticity (pull lightly on the skin and if it doesn’t readily return back to normal then there is a likelihood of dehydration).
Xerostomia, gums lose moistness becoming dry and sticky, saliva becomes thick and pasty.
Loss of appetite
Dry nose

If your Westie does suffer from dehydration and it is mild then give your dog small amounts of water every few minutes, however if it is severe then they will need to be taken to the vet for intravenous fluids.

There are things that can be done to prevent heatstroke and dehydration and to keep our furry friends cool and comfortable during the hot weather, here are just a few ideas:

Frozen treat cubes
Let them play with a cool/damp towel
Cooling mats
Paddling pools

Enjoy the sunshine but remember to keep your Besties safe this summer.