Heatstroke in Dogs: Signs & Symptoms

When the temperature rises, your dog's health is jeopardized by heatstroke. Our Simi Valley emergency vets explain the signs of this potentially fatal condition, as well as what to do if you suspect your dog is suffering from heatstroke, in today's post.

Heatstroke in Dogs 

Heatstroke is a condition in which the core body temperature rises as a result of environmental factors. Your dog's normal body temperature should be between 99 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your dog's body temperature rises above 105 degrees Fahrenheit, he or she needs to see a veterinarian right away. Heatstroke is a dangerous condition that can lead to death.

Why Dogs Are Susceptible to Heatstroke

When we get hot, we start sweating, which helps to cool us down. Dogs are unable to sweat, so they cool themselves by panting. If panting isn't enough to keep them cool, their body temperature may rise even higher, resulting in heatstroke.

Any breed or size of dog can suffer from heatstroke but dogs with thick fur, short noses, or those suffering from underlying medical conditions tend to be more susceptible to this condition.

The most common causes of heatstroke in dogs include:

  • Leaving a dog in a car on a hot or sunny day
  • Forgetting to provide adequate water for your pet
  • Lack of sufficient shade in pet's outdoor play area

Heatstroke Symptoms in Dogs

Excessive panting is the most obvious sign of heatstroke in dogs. However, panting isn't the only sign of heat exhaustion in dogs. Other signs of heatstroke in dogs that dog owners should be aware of are:

  • Drooling
  • Reddened gums
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Mental dullness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Collapse

How to Help a Dog With Heatstroke

Heatstroke is an extremely serious condition and symptoms should always be treated as an emergency! Heatstroke in dogs can lead to life-threatening issues such as abnormal blood clotting, swelling of the brain, kidney failure, and intestinal bleeding. 

If your dog is displaying signs of heatstroke head to your primary care veterinarian, or the nearest animal emergency hospital right away. While traveling to the vet's office, keep the windows open or the air conditioner on full to help cool your pet.

If you can't get to a vet's office right away, take your dog out of the hot environment right away and let him drink as much cool water as he wants without forcing him to. You can also help your dog's body temperature by covering them with a towel soaked in cool (not cold) water.

Treatment For Heatstroke in Dogs

The first step in dog heatstroke treatment is for the veterinary team to safely lower your dog's body temperature. Pour cool water over your dog's head, body, and feet, or use cool wet cloths to cover those areas. Rubbing alcohol can be applied to your dog's footpads to help dilate pores and increase perspiration in some cases. Intravenous fluids, mild sedation, and low-concentration oxygen therapy may be used to treat dogs with heatstroke.

As well as treating the immediate symptoms of heatstroke, your vet will also monitor your dog will for secondary complications such as changes in blood pressure, electrolytes abnormalities, kidney failure, development of neurologic symptoms, and abnormal clotting. 

How To Prevent Your Pooch From Developing Heatstroke

When it comes to the health and wellbeing of your four-legged friend, preventing heatstroke from ever happening is key. Prevent heatstroke in dogs by following the tips below:

  • Never leave a dog alone in a car. Even if you park in the shade and leave the windows cracked the temperature in your car could skyrocket! Studies have shown that even on cooler days, the temperature inside a car can rise by as much as 40 degrees in as little as one hour
  • Learn more about your dog's risk of heatstroke and take extra precautions with dogs who are at a higher risk. Heatstroke is more common in dogs with flat or 'squished' faces than in dogs with longer noses. Bulldogs, Boston terriers, Boxers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Shih Tzus, and mastiffs are among the endangered breeds.
  • Dogs that are obese or those that have an underlying heart condition may be particularly susceptible to heatstroke.
  • If your dog spends long periods of time outside when it's hot out, be sure to provide plenty of water and shade. A baby pool for a dog left outside may help, as they can cool themselves down by jumping in! Special cooling vests for dogs are also available for dogs that spend a lot of time in the heat.
  • Working dogs can become very focused on their job and forget to rest. Enforce rest breaks for your working dog to allow your pup's body to cool down (even if they don't want to).

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 dog displaying signs of heatstroke? Contact us right away or bring your pup straight over to our animal clinic in Simi Valley for urgent veterinary care.