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Heatstroke in Dogs - Signs, Treatment & Prevention

Heatstroke in Dogs - Signs, Treatment & Prevention

Here, our Little Elm 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?

As hot weather comes, dogs can get heatstroke, which is a serious problem that could be fatal. A dog can experience hyperthermia when its body temperature is elevated above a normal range (101.5°F)

The term 'heatstroke' refers to a form of hyperthermia. It occurs when the heat-dissipating mechanisms in your dog's body are overwhelmed by excessive heat. When your pup's body temperature rises above 104°F, they enter the danger zone.  If body temperature is above 105°F, this indicates heatstroke.

That is why we must ensure that our dogs are kept as cool and comfortable as possible during the summer months.

Causes of Heatstroke in Dogs

A vehicles temperature can quickly exceed dangerous levels on summer days (even when the inside of our vehicles does not seem "that hot" to us, remember that your dog has a fur coat on) Leave the dog at home while you shop.

Access to water and shade in your backyard or at the beach can also spell trouble. Dogs need shade and water on hot days, especially dogs with medical conditions like obesity and senior dogs.

Flat-faced, short-nosed dogs are more vulnerable to breathing issues, and your dog's breed could be a contributing factor. As you might expect, thick coats quickly become uncomfortable. Even dogs who love spending time outside engaging in activities need close supervision, especially on days when the mercury is rising.

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 act.

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 cannot 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

Be careful how much time your dog spends outside or in the sun in the summer to help prevent heatstroke. The bodies of dogs with short faces are unable to handle heat and humidity, so do not expose them to it.

Never leave your dog in a car on a hot day, even if you park in the shade. You should provide your pooch with plenty of shade to retreat to and easy access to cool water. A properly ventilated dog crate or specially designed seat belt 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.

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

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