Signs and Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs

Signs and Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs

When temperatures rise, heatstroke can become a threat to your dog's health. In today's post, our Apple Valley vets explain how to spot the signs and symptoms of heatstroke and what to do if you think your dog has heatstroke. 

Heatstroke in dogs 

Heatstroke is defined as an increase in core body temperature caused by environmental conditions. The normal body temperature for your dog should be approximately 99 degrees to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your pup's body temperature rises above 105 degrees Fahrenheit, you should seek veterinary care straight away. Heatstroke is an extremely serious condition and it can be fatal if left untreated.

Why are dogs susceptible to heatstroke?

When humans get hot, we sweat to cool down our bodies, but dogs are unable to sweat. Instead, our furry friends cool themselves by panting. But if panting isn't sufficient to cool them down, their body temperature may continue to rise, which can result in heatstroke. 

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

The most common causes of heatstroke in dogs include:

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

Heatstroke symptoms in dogs

The most obvious sign of heatstroke in dogs is excessive panting. However, panting isn't the only symptom of heatstroke in dogs. Other heatstroke symptoms for dogs include:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Mental dullness
  • Reddened gums
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Diarrhea
  • 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, it's a good idea to head to your 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 at full blast to help cool your pet.

If you are unable to get to a vet's office immediately, remove your 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.

Treatment for heatstroke in dogs

Heatstroke treatment for dogs begins with the veterinary team safely reducing your dog's body temperature. The team may pour cool water over your dog's head, body and feet, or the team may apply cool wet cloths to those areas. In some cases, the veterinarian may apply alcohol to your dog's footpads to help dilate pores and increase perspiration. Treatment for dogs with heatstroke can also include intravenous fluids, mild sedation and low-concentration oxygen therapy.

As well as 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 or abnormal clotting. 

How to prevent heatstroke in your dog

When it comes to the health and wellbeing of your four-legged friend, preventing heatstroke from ever happening is key. Here are some ways you can easily prevent heatstroke in dogs:

  • 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! Even on cooler days, the temperature inside a car can rise by as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit in as little as 10 minutes.
  • Learn more about your dog's level of heatstroke risk. Breeds with flat or 'squished' faces 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 may be particularly susceptible to heatstroke.
  • Provide plenty of water and shade. This is especially crucial if your dog spends long periods of time outside when it's hot. A baby pool for a dog left outside may help as it allows them to cool themselves by jumping in! Special cooling vests are also available for dogs that spend a lot of time in the heat.
  • Enforce rest breaks for your working dog. Working dogs can become very focused on their job and forget to rest, so make sure 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 a 24/7 emergency animal clinic in Apple Valley for urgent veterinary care.

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