We know it's fun and exciting to be outside especially when it is hot out. However, if you plan on spending time outside with your dog this summer you have to be aware of the signs and symptoms of heatstroke in dogs. Our White Settlement vets explain these signs with you today.  

Heatstroke in Dogs

Heatstroke is also known as hyperthermia or prostration. It's described as an increase in your dog's body temperature due to conditions in their environment. The internal temperature of your dog's body should be approximately 99-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your furry friend's body temperature goes above 105 they require urgent veterinary care as this condition can be fatal.

How Do Dogs Get Heatstroke?

When people get too warm our bodies start to sweat in order to cool down. Dogs however cannot sweat, so they attempt to cool themselves off by panting. If panting doesn't successfully achieve this task, their body temperature could keep rising causing heatstroke. 

Dog's of any size or breed can develop heatstroke however, dogs with thick fur, short noses, or those suffering from an underlying medical condition are at a higher risk of getting this condition.

The most common causes of heatstroke in dogs include:

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

What are the Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs?

The most visible symptom of heatstroke is excessive panting. However, panting isn't the only symptom of heatstroke in dogs. Other signs of heatstroke in dogs include:

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

What should I do if I believe my dog has heatstroke?

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

If your dog is showing any of the symptoms listed above contact your primary care vet, or the nearest emergency animal hospital immediately. While traveling to the vet's office, keep the windows open or the air conditioner on full to help your pup cool down.

If you are unable to get to a vet's office immediately, remove the dog from the hot environment straight away and allow your pup to drink as much cool water as they want without forcing them to drink. You can also help to bring your dog's body temperature down by placing a towel soaked in cool (not cold) water over them.

How is heatstroke in dogs treated?

Treatment for dogs with heatstroke typically starts with the veterinary team safely reducing your dog's body temperature. Cool water might be poured over your pup's head, body, and feet, or cool wet cloths may be applied to those areas. Sometimes vets apply rubbing alcohol to your dog's footpads to help dilate their pores and increase perspiration. Treatment for dogs with heatstroke could also include intravenous fluids, mild sedation, and low-concentration oxygen therapy.

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

How can I prevent my dog from getting heatstroke?

When it comes to your canine companion's health and wellbeing, preventing heatstroke in the first place is key. You can prevent heatstroke by following the tips below:

  • Never leave your dog alone in a car. Even if you park in the shade and leave the windows cracked the temperature in your vehicle can skyrocket! Studies have shown that even on cooler days, the temperature inside a car can increase by as much as 40 degrees in as little as one hour
  • Know your dog's risk level for heatstroke and take the necessary steps to be extra cautious with dogs that have an increased risk. Dog breeds with flat or 'squished' faces (aka brachycephalic) are more likely to suffer from heatstroke than dogs with longer noses. At-risk breeds include bulldogs, Boston terriers, Boxers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Shih Tzus, and mastiffs.
  • Dogs that are obese or those that have an underlying heart condition could be particularly susceptible to heatstroke.
  • If you have to leave your dog outside for long periods of time when it's hot out, remember to provide them with 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 be 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.

Contact our White Settlement vets immediately if you believe your dog has heatstroke. Heatstroke is a veterinary emergency that requires immediate veterinary care.