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Heatstroke in Dogs: Symptoms & Treatment

Heatstroke in Dogs: Symptoms & Treatment

Just like humans, dogs are capable of becoming overheated, especially when the weather is hot. Unfortunately, they don't have the same cooling abilities that the human bodies have. Here, our Bedford vets share some information about heatstroke in dogs and how you can help prevent it and keep your pup safe.

How Does Heatstroke Occur in Dogs?

Heatstroke is a serious condition that may affect dogs when they overheat, especially if the weather is hotter. When a dog’s body temperature is elevated above a normal range (101.5°F), hyperthermia (fever) can occur.

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

During the summer months, extra care should be taken to help keep your dog cool which will in turn keep them healthy and comfortable.

What Are Some Potential Causes of Heatstroke?

On summer days, a vehicle's temperature can quickly exceed dangerous levels (even when the inside of our vehicles do not seem “that hot” to us, remember that your dog has a fur coat on). Leave the dog at home while you shop.

A lack of access to water and shade in your backyard or at the beach can also spell trouble. Shade and water are vital on warm weather days, especially for dogs with medical conditions such as obesity, and senior dogs.

Your dog's breed could also be a contributing factor when it comes to heatstroke; flat-faced, short-nosed pups tend to be more vulnerable to breathing issues. As you might imagine, thick coats quickly become uncomfortable. Each dog (even ones who love spending time outside engaging in activities) requires close supervision, especially on days when the mercury is rising.

The Symptoms of Heatstroke to Watch For

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 take action.

What To Do For Dogs Showing 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 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 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.

Ways That You Can Help Prevent Heatstroke in Dogs

To help prevent your dog from getting heatstroke you should be very cautious about how much time your dog 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.

If your dog is showing signs of heatstroke they should be examined as soon as possible. Contact our vets at Fine Animal Hospital in Bedford right away.

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