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Heatstroke in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & What to Do

Heatstroke in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & What to Do

Heat can prove very dangerous for dogs if they do not have enough access to shade and water. Here, our Palmdale vets explain how heatstroke in dogs can affect our canine friends and provide a list of symptoms for pooch parents to watch for. Also, find out what to do if you suspect your dog is suffering from the condition and learn how to prevent it.

What is heatstroke in dogs?

As the warm weather arrives, dogs can become susceptible to heatstroke (also referred to as heat exhaustion). This serious and potentially fatal danger for dogs is unfortunately common. Hyperthermia (fever) can occur when a dog's body temperature is heightened above a normal range (101.5°F). 

Heatstroke is a type of hyperthermia that happens when your dog's natural heat-dissipating mechanisms become overwhelmed by excessive heat. If body temperature rises past 104°F, he will enter the danger zone. A body temperature above 105°F indicates heatstroke. 

For this reason, we need to keep our dogs as cool and comfortable as possible during the summer months.

What causes heatstroke in dogs?

On summer days, your vehicle's temperature or even temperatures outside can quickly warm to dangerous levels. Keep in mind that even though the inside of our vehicles do not seem "that hot" to us, that your dog wears a fur coat year-round. Leave the dog at home while you run errands. 

Lack of access to shade and water in your backyard or at the beach can also become problematic. Shade and water are critical on days when the sun is warm, especially for senior dogs and those with medical conditions. 

When it comes to heatstroke, breed can also contribute to this condition as flat-faced, short-nosed pups tend to be more prone to breathing problems. As you might suspect, thick coats can quickly become uncomfortable. Every dog (even those who love spending time playing outdoors) needs close supervision, especially when the warm weather hits and the mercury begins to rise.

Which symptoms of heatstroke in dogs should I be aware of?

During spring and summer, keep close watch on your four-legged friend. Heatstroke symptoms in dogs can include:

  • Drooling
  • Signs of discomfort
  • Excessive panting
  • Red gums 
  • Diarrhea
  • Unwilling or unable to move (or uncoordinated movement)
  • Vomiting
  • Collapse or loss of consciousness

What should I do if I suspect my dog may be suffering from heatstroke?

While heatstroke is extremely hazardous to dogs' health, it can be reversed if detected early. If you notice your pooch displaying any of the symptoms listed above, immediately get 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 in the danger zone mentioned above, this qualifies as an veterinary 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.

Is your pet exhibiting signs of heartworm disease? Our vets have experiencing in diagnosing and treating many common illnesses and conditions. Book an appointment at All Care Pet Clinic today.

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