While summer months bring fun, pup parents also need to watch out for heatstroke in dogs. Today, our vets in the Pacific Northwest define this condition and provide a list of symptoms for owners to watch for. We also recommend actions to take if your dog is suffering from heatstroke and give tips on prevention.
What is heatstroke in dogs?
As hot weather arrives and we all head outside, heatstroke (also referred to as heat exhaustion) is a veterinary emergency and a serious, potentially fatal danger for dogs. When a dog's body temperature rises above a normal range (101.5°F), hyperthermia (fever) can set in.
Heatstroke is one form of hyperthermia. This occurs when excessive heat overwhelms the heat-dissipating mechanisms in your dog's body. When body temperature rises past 104°F, her body enters the danger zone. A body temperature above 105°F indicates heatstroke. Therefore, we need to ensure our dogs remain as cool and comfortable as possible during the summer months.
What causes heatstroke in dogs?
On hot summer days, your vehicle's temperature can quickly exceed levels dangerous for dogs (even when the inside of your vehicle does not seem "that hot" to you, remember that your dog has a coat of fur to contend with). Leave your pooch at home while you shop.
A lack of access to shade and water at the beach or in your backyard can also cause trouble quickly. For every dog, but especially dogs with medical conditions or those who may be obese or older, shade and water are critical on warm weather days.
Your pup's breed can also contribute to how susceptible they are to heatstroke. Flat-faced pooches with short noses tend to be more vulnerable to breathing issues. As you may be aware, dogs with thick coats can quickly become uncomfortable. Each dog (even ones who love playing outdoors) needs close supervision, especially during those "dog days of summer" when the mercury is rising.
What are symptoms of heatstroke in dogs?
Come spring or summer, it's time to start watching your dog closely for heatstroke symptoms, which can include:
- Signs of discomfort
- Mental flatness or "dullness"
- Red gums
- Excessive panting
- 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 her 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 her 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 her stomach. A fan may also be useful.
After a few minutes, retake her 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.