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Heatstroke in Dogs: Symptoms & What to Do

Heatstroke in Dogs: Symptoms & What to Do

During the warmer months, dogs love to lie in the sun, while this is normally not an issue, there are times when the sun and heat can be too much. Our Stockton vets discuss why dogs get heatstroke, the symptoms, and what you should do about it

Heatstroke in Dogs

Heatstroke (also called prostration or hyperthermia) happens when your dog's core body temperature increases due to the environment around them. The average body temperature for dogs should be around 99-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Any temperature above 105 is considered a veterinary emergency and your dog should be assessed immediately.

Never ignore signs of heatstroke in dogs. Heatstroke is an extremely serious condition that can be fatal.

Why Dogs Get Heatstroke

Unlike humans, our canine companions are unable to sweat and therefore they will excessively pant if their body temperature rises too much. If panting isn't sufficient to cool themselves down, their body temperature may continue to rise resulting in heatstroke. 

Dogs of any size or breed can suffer from heatstroke but those with thick fur, short noses or those suffering from underlying medical conditions tend to be more susceptible to this condition.

The most common causes of heatstroke in dogs include:

  • Leaving a dog in a car on a hot or sunny day
  • Forgetting to provide adequate water for your pet
  • Not enough shade in pet's outdoor play area

What are some signs of Heatstroke in Your Dog

The first symptom of heatstroke that your dog will experience is excessive panting. That said, panting isn't the only symptom of heatstroke in dogs. Other heatstroke symptoms that pet parents should be aware of include:

  • Drooling
  • Reddened gums
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Mental dullness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Collapse

What To Do If Your Dog Might Have Heatstroke

Heatstroke in dogs is an emergency and if not treated quickly can lead to life-threatening issues such as abnormal blood clotting, swelling of the brain, kidney failure, and intestinal bleeding or could be fatal. 

If you notice that your dog is displaying signs of heatstroke head to your primary care vet, or the nearest animal emergency hospital right away. While traveling to the vet's office, keep the windows open or the air conditioner on full to help cool your pet.

If you are unable to get to a vet's office immediately, remove the dog from the hot environment straight away and allow your pup to drink as much cool water as they want without forcing them to drink. You can also help to bring your dog's body temperature down by placing a towel soaked in cool (not cold) water over them.

How Vets Treat Heatstroke in Dogs

Once you arrive at the vet hospital your vet and the veterinary team will immediately begin to quickly and safely lower the temperature of your dog. Cool water may be poured over your dog's head, body, and feet, or cool wet cloths may be applied to those areas. In some cases rubbing alcohol may be applied to your dog's footpads in order to help dilate pores and increase perspiration. Treatment for dogs with heatstroke may also include intravenous fluids, mild sedation and low-concentration oxygen therapy.

As well as treating the immediate symptoms of heatstroke, your vet will also monitor your dog will for secondary complications such as changes in blood pressure, electrolytes abnormalities, kidney failure, development of neurologic symptoms, and abnormal clotting. 

How to Prevent Heat Stroke in your Dog

Preventing heatstroke is imperative for the well-being of your dog. Prevent heatstroke in dogs by following the tips below:

  • It is important that you never leave your dog in the car. Even if you park in the shade and have the windows partially one the temperature could increase rapidly. Studies have shown that even on cooler days, the temperature inside a car can rise by as much as 40 degrees in as little as one hour
  • Some dogs have an increased risk of heatstroke and so knowing your dog is important for assessing what is too hot for them. Dog breeds with flat or 'squished' faces (aka brachycephalic) are more likely to suffer from heatstroke than dogs with longer noses. At-risk breeds include bulldogs, Boston terriers, Boxers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Shih Tzus, and mastiffs.
  • Dogs that are obese or those that have an underlying heart condition may be particularly susceptible to heatstroke.
  • If you must leave your dog outside for long periods of time when it's hot out, be sure to provide plenty of water and shade. A baby pool for a dog left outside may help, as they can cool themselves down by jumping in! Special cooling vests for dogs are also available for dogs that spend a lot of time in the heat.
  • If you have a working dog they may be too focused to takes breaks and so you may need to enforce rest periods even if they don't want to and provide them with shade and water. 

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.

If you are worried that your dog may be exhibiting signs of heatstroke contact our Stockton vets as soon as possible.

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