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Heatstroke in Dogs

Heatstroke in Dogs

Here, our Southgate vets define heatstroke in dogs and provide a list of symptoms that you should watch out for as the temperature rises. We also share recommendations on how to prevent heatstroke and what to do if you think that your dog is suffering from this serious condition.

What is heatstroke in dogs?

Heatstroke (also known as heat exhaustion) is a serious — and potentially fatal — danger for dogs as the weather heats up. Hyperthermia (fever) can occur when a dog's body temperature rises above the normal range (101.5°F).

Hyperthermia is a type of heatstroke. It occurs when your dog's body's heat-dissipating mechanisms are overwhelmed by excessive heat. When your dog's body temperature exceeds 104°F, he or she enters the danger zone. Heatstroke occurs when the body temperature rises above 105°F.

That’s why we need to ensure our dogs stay as cool and comfortable as possible during the summer months.

Causes of Heatstroke in Dogs

On summer days, a vehicle's temperature can quickly exceed dangerous levels (even when the inside of our vehicles do not seem “that hot” to us, remember that your dog has a fur coat on). Leave the dog at home while you shop.

A lack of access to water and shade in your backyard or at the beach can also be problematic. Shade and water are essential on hot days, especially for dogs with medical conditions such as obesity and senior dogs.

When it comes to heatstroke, your dog's breed may also play a role; flat-faced, short-nosed puppies are more susceptible to breathing problems. Thick coats, as one might expect, quickly become uncomfortable. Each dog (even those who enjoy spending time outside doing activities) requires close supervision, especially on hot days.

Heatstroke Symptoms in Dogs

During spring and summer, watch carefully for signs of heatstroke in dogs including any combination of the following symptoms:

  • Mental “dullness” or flatness
  • Red gums
  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling
  • Signs of discomfort
  • Unable or unwilling to move (or uncoordinated movement)
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Collapsing or loss of consciousness

If your pooch is displaying any of the above heatstroke symptoms it's time to take action.

What To Do If Your Dog Shows Signs of Heatstroke

Fortunately, heatstroke in dogs can be reversed if detected early. If you notice your pup displaying any symptoms listed above, immediately take them to a cooler place with good air circulation. If symptoms do not improve quickly and you are not able to take your dog’s temperature, contact your vet immediately for advice. 

Take your dog’s temperature if you have access to a rectal thermometer. If their temperature is above 104°F, this qualifies as an emergency and your dog will need to see a vet. 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.

How to Help Prevent Your Dog From Getting Heatstroke

To help prevent heatstroke in your dog, limit the amount of time he or she spends outside or in the sun during the summer. Avoid exposing your dog to heat and humidity; their bodies (particularly those with short faces) are unable to cope.

Even if you park in the shade, NEVER leave your dog in a car with closed windows. Provide your dog with plenty of shade and easy access to cool water. A well-ventilated dog crate or a specially designed dog seat belt may also be effective.

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.

Symptoms of heatstroke in dogs should never be ignored! If your dog is showing signs of heatstroke, contact us right away at Southgate Animal Hospital, or take your pet to the nearest 24/7 emergency animal clinic for urgent care.

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