In this post, our Powder Springs vets explain what heat stroke is, how to recognize it in dogs, and the steps you should take if your pup develops this serious condition.
Heatstroke in Dogs
As hot weather arrives, dogs are at a higher risk for heatstroke (also called heat exhaustion), which is a serious, potentially fatal condition for dogs. When a dog’s body temperature rises above a normal range (101.5°F) they can develop hyperthermia (fever).
Heatstroke is a type of hyperthermia. It occurs when the heat-dissipating mechanisms of a dog’s body become overwhelmed by excessive heat. When your pup's body temperature elevates past 104°F, they enter the danger zone. If body temperature is above 105°F, they develop heatstroke.
That’s why we need to ensure our dogs stay as cool and comfortable as possible during the summer months.
Heatstroke Causes in Dogs
On summer days, a vehicle's temperature can quickly exceed dangerous levels (even when the inside of your vehicle doesn't seem “that hot” to you, you need to remember that your dog has a fur coat on). Leave your dog at home when you shop.
A lack of access to water and shade in your backyard or at the beach can also cause trouble. Shade and water are vital on warm weather days, especially for dogs with medical conditions such as obesity, and senior dogs.
Your dog's breed could also contribute to their heatstroke risk level; flat-faced, short-nosed pups tend to be more vulnerable to breathing problems. As you could imagine, thick coats can become uncomfortable quickly. Each dog (even ones who love spending time outside engaging in activities) needs to be supervised closely, especially on days when the mercury is rising.
Signs & Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs
During the spring and summer months, watch your dog carefully for the signs of heatstroke listed below:
- Signs of discomfort
- Excessive panting
- Mental “dullness” or flatness
- Red gums
- Unable or unwilling to move (or uncoordinated movement)
- Collapsing or loss of consciousness
If your dog is displaying any of the heatstroke symptoms detailed above, it's time to take action.
What To Do If Your Dog Shows Signs of Heatstroke
Fortunately, if a dog's heatstroke is detected early, it can be reversed. If you notice your pup displaying any symptoms listed above, take them to a cooler place immediately that has good air circulation. If symptoms do not improve quickly and you can't take your dog’s temperature, call your vet immediately to get advice.
If you have access to a rectal thermometer, take your dog’s temperature. If their temperature is above 104°F, it is considered an emergency and your dog will have to see a vet as quickly as possible. If this temperature is above 105°F, immediately hose or sponge your dog’s body with cool (not cold) water. Pay special attention to their stomach. A fan may also be useful. Contact your vet or your nearest emergency vet for further instructions.
Heatstroke is a very serious condition. Take your dog to a vet right away whether you are able to reduce their temperature or not.
Preventing Heatstroke in Dogs
To help prevent your dog from getting heatstroke, you need to be very cautious about the amount of time they spend outside or in the sun during the summer. Do not expose your dog to heat and humidity - their bodies (especially those with short faces) can't handle it.
NEVER leave your dog in a car with closed windows - even if you park in the shade. Provide your pup with lots of shade that they can retreat to and easy access to cool water. A well-ventilated dog crate or specially designed seat belt for dogs may also work well.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.