In this post, our Baltimore vets explain heatstroke in dogs and share a list of symptoms to watch for. We also share recommendations about what to do in a heatstroke emergency. Plus, tips on how to prevent the condition.
What is heatstroke in dogs?
As the summer weather arrives, heatstroke (also referred to as heat exhaustion) is a serious, potentially fatal danger for dogs. When a dog's body temperature rises above a normal range (101.5°F), fever (hyperthermia) can occur.
Heatstroke is a form of hyperthermia that occurs when your dog's heat-dissipating mechanisms are overwhelmed by excessive heat. When body temperature is elevated above 104°F, he enters the danger zone. Once the body's temperature is past 105°F, this is classified as heatstroke.
This is why we need to make sure our dogs remain as cool and comfortable as possible during the summer months.
What are the causes of heatstroke in dogs?
On hot summer days, the temperature inside your vehicle can quickly rise above dangerous levels (even when the inside of your vehicle does not seem very hot, remember that your dog has a fur coat to contend with). Leave the dog at home if at all possible while you shop.
A lack of access to shade in water at the beach or in your backyard can also be problematic. Water and shade are essential on warm weather days, particularly for senior dogs, and dogs with medical conditions such as obesity. Breed may also factor into heatstroke; short-nosed, flat-faced pooches tend to be more vulnerable to breathing issues. Dogs' thick coats can easily become uncomfortable.
Every dog (even ones who love spending active time outside) needs close supervision, especially on days when the mercury is rising.
What are symptoms of heatstroke in dogs?
During spring and summer, watch your canine companion closely. Heatstroke symptoms in dogs include:
- Excessive panting
- Mental “dullness” or flatness
- Red gums
- Signs of discomfort
- Unable or unwilling to move (or uncoordinated movement)
- Collapsing or loss of consciousness
What should I do if my dog is suffering from heatstroke?
Fortunately, heatstroke in dogs can be reversed if detected early. If you notice your pup displaying any symptoms listed above, immediately take him 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 his temperature is less than 105°F, this qualifies as an emergency and your dog will need to see a vet. If this temperature is above 105°F, hose or sponge your dog’s body with cool (not cold) water. Pay special attention to his stomach. A fan may also be useful.
After a few minutes, retake his temperature until it gets down to 103°F. Do not reduce the temperature below 103°F, as this can also lead to problems. Take your dog to a veterinarian immediately whether you are able to reduce his temperature or not.
How can I prevent heatstroke?
Be very cautious about how much time your furry friend spends outside or in the sun during the summer. Do not expose your dog to heat and humidity - their bodies (especially those with short faces) are unable to handle it.
NEVER leave your dog in a car with closed windows - even if you park in the shade. Provide your pooch with lots of shade to retreat to and easy access to cool water. A well-ventilated dog crate or specially designed seat belt for dogs 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.