Here, the veterinary team at Johns Creek Veterinary Clinic walks you through what heatstroke in dogs is and provides you with a list of symptoms you should watch out for as the temperature rises. Our Johns Creek vets also share advice on how to prevent heatstroke in your dog and what to do if your think that your pup may be suffering from this serious condition.
What is heatstroke in dogs?
As the weather grows hotter, heatstroke (also called heat exhaustion) can become a more serious — and even fatal — issue threatening dogs and people. When our pup's body temperature grows beyond a normal range (around 101.5°F), hyperthermia (or fever) can begin.
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.
Because of this, it's important that we ensure our dogs stay cool and comfortable as much as possible throughout the hotter months of the year.
Causes of Heatstroke in Dogs
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 shade and water may play a serious role in accelerating heatstroke. Water and shade are incredibly important when it comes to your dog keeping cool on hot days, especially if they have medical conditions like obesity or are older.
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.
Heatstroke Symptoms in Dogs
During the spring and summer months, watch your dog carefully for signs of heatstroke, including the following symptoms:
- Red gums
- Mental “dullness” or flatness
- 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
Thankfully, if it is detected early, heatstroke in dogs can be reversed. If you notice that your pup is displaying any of the symptoms listed above, bring them to a cooler place with good air circulation. If the symptoms of heatstroke in your dog don't quickly improve and you can't take their temperature, contact your vet as soon as possible 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.
How to Help Prevent Your Dog From Getting Heatstroke
To help prevent your pooch from getting heatstroke 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.
Absolutely NEVER leave your pup in a car with its windows closed. This applies to the times you park in the shade too. Make sure you give your dog plenty of shade to retreat to and access to as much cool water as they would like. a well-ventilated crate may be very helpful in this regard.
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.