Heatstroke in dogs is defined here by our Visalia veterinarians, who also provide a list of symptoms to look out for as the temperature rises. We also discuss how to prevent heatstroke in dogs and what to do if you suspect your dog is suffering from this dangerous condition.
What is heatstroke in dogs?
Heatstroke (also known as heat exhaustion) is a serious — and potentially fatal — danger for dogs as summer approaches. 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 is in danger. 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 hot summer days, a vehicle's temperature can quickly rise to dangerous levels (remember that your dog is wearing a fur coat, even if the inside of our vehicles does not appear "that hot" to us). While you're out shopping, leave the dog at home.
In your backyard or at the beach, a lack of access to water and shade can also be problematic. On hot days, shade and water are especially important for dogs with medical conditions like obesity and senior dogs.
When it comes to heatstroke, your dog's breed can play a role; flat-faced, short-nosed dogs are more susceptible to breathing problems. Thick coats, as you might expect, quickly become uncomfortable. Every dog, even those who enjoy spending time outside engaging in activities, requires constant 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
- Signs of discomfort
- Unable or unwilling to move (or uncoordinated movement)
- 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
Heatstroke in dogs, fortunately, can be treated if caught early enough. If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms listed above, take them to a cooler location with good air circulation right away. If your dog's symptoms do not improve quickly and you are unable to take his temperature, seek advice from your veterinarian right away.
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 can reduce their temperature or not.
How to Help Prevent Your Dog From Getting Heatstroke
To keep your dog from getting heatstroke, 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 because their bodies (especially those with short faces) cannot handle it.
Even if you park in the shade, NEVER leave your dog in a car with closed windows. Provide plenty of shade for your dog to relax in and easy access to cool water. A well-ventilated dog crate or a dog-specific seat belt may also be useful.
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.