Our Smyrna veterinarians define heatstroke in dogs and offer a list of symptoms to look out for as the temperature rises. We also discuss how to prevent heatstroke in dogs and what to do if you suspect your dog is suffering from this dangerous condition.
What is heatstroke in dogs?
As hot weather arrives, heatstroke (also known as heat exhaustion) is a serious — potentially fatal — danger for dogs. When a dog’s body temperature is elevated above a normal range (101.5°F), hyperthermia (fever) can occur.
Hyperthermia is a type of heatstroke. It occurs when your dog's heat-dissipating mechanisms are overwhelmed by excessive heat. The danger zone is reached when your dog's body temperature exceeds 104°F. Heatstroke occurs when the body temperature rises above 105°F.
That’s why we need to ensure our dogs stay as cool and comfortable as possible during the summer months.
Causes of Heatstroke in Dogs
On summer days, a vehicle's temperature can quickly exceed dangerous levels (even when the inside of our vehicles does 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 spell trouble. Shade and water are vital on warm weather days, especially for dogs with medical conditions such as obesity, and senior dogs.
When it comes to heatstroke, your dog's breed can play a role; flat-faced, short-nosed dogs are more susceptible to breathing problems. Thick coats, as you might expect, quickly become uncomfortable. Every dog, even those who enjoy spending time outside engaging in activities, requires constant supervision, especially on hot days.
Heatstroke Symptoms in Dogs
During spring and summer, watch carefully for signs of heatstroke in dogs including any combination of the following symptoms:
- Mental “dullness” or flatness
- Red gums
- Excessive panting
- Signs of discomfort
- Unable or unwilling to move (or uncoordinated movement)
- Collapsing or loss of consciousness
If your pooch is displaying any of the above heatstroke symptoms it's time to take action.
What To Do If Your Dog Shows Signs of Heatstroke
Fortunately, heatstroke in dogs can be reversed if detected early. If you notice your pup displaying any symptoms listed above, immediately take them 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 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 vet or your nearest emergency vet for further instructions.
Heatstroke is a very serious condition. Take your dog to a vet right away whether you can reduce their temperature or not.
How to Help Prevent Your Dog From Getting Heatstroke
To keep your dog from getting heatstroke, limit the amount of time he or she spends outside or in the sun during the summer. Avoid exposing your dog to high temperatures and humidity because their bodies (especially those with short faces) are unable to cope.
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.