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Reviewed for accuracy on April 4, 2020 by Brittany Kleszynski, DVM
As spring turns to summer, rising temperatures can put your dog at risk of developing heat stroke. This condition is preventable by keeping your dog cool and well-hydrated. Let’s discuss how to detect, diagnose, treat and prevent heat stroke in dogs.
What is heat stroke?
Also known as non-fever hyperthermia, heat stroke in dogs can occur when their core temperatures rise well above the high end of normal. When external temperatures increase, it is difficult for dogs to dissipate heat and regulate their body temperatures appropriately. Dogs pant to get rid of excessive heat, but when environmental temperatures are high, they begin to absorb more heat than they can get rid of.
Brachycephalic dog breeds, such as pugs and boxers, are at a higher risk of developing heat stroke since their facial anatomy (short snouts and flat faces) can cause obstruction to breathing effectively. Dogs with underlying medical conditions, geriatric dogs, and dogs with thick coats are also at increased risk.
Heat stroke occurs most commonly when a dog’s internal temperature rises to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. This extreme temperature can cause damage to multiple organs.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke in Dogs
It’s important to keep a close on your pet in hot weather, as early detection is the key to preventing heat stroke in dogs.
Top 10 Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs
- Body temperatures at 106 degrees Fahrenheit or above
- Rapid panting
- Excessive drooling
- Warm skin
- Dark red and dry tongue and gums
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Loss of coordination or collapse
- Loss of consciousness
Excessive panting and drooling are likely the first signs you may notice in your dog. As the condition becomes more severe, loss of coordination and collapse may be seen. Heat stroke is always a medical emergency.
Emergency Heat Stroke Treatment
If your dog displays signs of heat stroke, it is essential to start bringing his or her core body temperature down. The following list includes helpful tips on what you can do at home and on your way to the veterinarian.
- Relocate your dog to a cool environment.
- Use cool water or wet towels on the head, inguinal and armpit regions, and paws to encourage cooling. Do not use ice-cold water or fully submerge your dog as this may cause blood vessel constriction.
- Offer your dog ice cubes to lick or cool water to drink.
- Stop assisted cooling once your dog’s body temperature reaches 103 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat stroke in dogs is a serious medical condition that can negatively affect the internal organs. Even if your dog appears okay on the outside, it is important to visit the veterinarian after an episode of heat stroke to rule out any internal damage that may have developed.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Heat Stroke
Once you have reached the animal hospital, the veterinarian will check vital signs, including a rectal temperature. They will initiate intravenous fluid therapy and perform bloodwork. Treatment includes continuing to control cooling until your dog’s temperature reaches 103 degrees Fahrenheit.
Complications arising from heat stroke, such as kidney failure, neurological injury, or blood clotting abnormalities will also be addressed.
Prevent Heat Stroke in Dogs
It is very simple to prevent heat stroke in dogs – keep him or her cool! Please do not ever leave your dog in a car unattended. Temperatures inside the car can rise to much higher levels than the temperature outside in only a matter of minutes. Limit your dog’s time outside when temperatures are high. If your dog is spending any time outdoors, always ensure there is a shaded area and plenty of fresh, cool water available. Refrain from taking long walks, hikes, or runs when it is hot outside. Freezable toys and kiddie pools can also be fun ways to help keep your dog cool. If in doubt, only let your dog outside for potty breaks and keep him or her indoors until temperatures cool off.
Prevention tips summary:
- Give access to plenty of shade and fresh water.
- Keep your pet groomed appropriately.
- Avoid long walks, hikes, and jogs in the middle of a warm day.
- Never leave your pet in the car, not even for a quick errand. If you sit in your car for a few minutes and start to feel too hot, your pet will too.
Important Things to Remember About Heat Stroke
- Heat stroke can occur even on relatively mild days.
- There is a progression from mild heat stress to more severe heat stroke, but this can happen very quickly.
- The temperature in a car can increase 20 degrees every 10 minutes. That means a car can go from a comfortable 70 degrees to nearly 90 degrees rapidly.
- Prompt veterinary care is crucial if your dog is experiencing heat stroke.
The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical diagnosis, condition, or treatment options.
Featured image via Flickr.com/johnha.