In this post, our Lithia Springs vets talk about the causes and symptoms of heatstroke in dogs and the steps you should take if your dog develops this potentially fatal condition.
Heatstroke in Dogs
As hot weather arrives, heatstroke (also referred to as heat exhaustion) — serious and potentially fatal — becomes a danger for dogs. When a dog’s body temperature rises above a normal range (101.5°F), hyperthermia (fever) can occur.
Heatstroke is a form of hyperthermia. It occurs when the heat-dissipating mechanisms in your dog’s body become overwhelmed by excessive heat. When your pup's body temperature rises past 104°F, they enter the danger zone. Your dog can get heatstroke when their body temperature rises above 105°F.
That’s why we need to make sure our dogs stay as cool and comfortable as possible during the summer months.
How Dogs Get 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 cause trouble. Shade and water are vital on days when the weather is warm, especially for dogs with medical conditions such as obesity, and senior dogs.
The breed of your dog 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.
Signs & Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs
During spring and summer, watch your dog carefully for signs of heatstroke which includes any combination of the following symptoms:
- Signs of discomfort
- Excessive panting
- Red gums
- Mental “dullness” or flatness
- Unable or unwilling to move (or uncoordinated movement)
- Collapsing or loss of consciousness
If your pup is displaying any of the heatstroke symptoms detailed above, you need to take action.
What To Do When Your Dog Develops Heatstroke Symptoms
Fortunately, if a dog's heatstroke is detected early enough it can be reversed. If you notice your pup exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, immediately take them to a cooler place with good air circulation. If their symptoms do not improve quickly and you are not able to take your dog’s temperature, contact your vet straight away to get 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 primary care veterinarian or our Lithia Springs after-hours emergency vets 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.
Preventing Heatstroke in Dogs
To help prevent your dog 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.
NEVER leave your dog in a car with closed windows - even if you park in the shade. Provide your canine companion 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.