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Signs, Symptoms & Treatment for Heatstroke in Dogs

In this post, our Central Illinois vets define heatstroke in dogs and list symptoms you should beware of. We also share recommendations for what to do if you suspect your dog is suffering from the condition and give tips on prevention. 

What is heatstroke in dogs?

As the mercury rises during warmer weather, heatstroke (also referred to as heat exhaustion) is a serious, potentially fatal and ever-present danger for dogs. When a dog's body temperature rises above a normal range (101.5°F) and is overwhelmed with excessive heat, fever (hyperthermia) can occur. 

When body temperature rises past 104°F, he enters the danger zone. If body temperature is above 105°F, this is indicative of heatstroke. 

That's why we need to ensure our dogs remain as cool and comfortable as possible during the summer.

What causes heatstroke in dogs?

Think of a hot summer day when you first open your car door to get into the driver's seat. You're hit by a rush of heat that's almost oppressive. That's because during the summer your vehicle's temperature can quickly exceed dangerous levels. And even when the interior of our vehicles do not seem "that hot" to us, we should remember that our dogs have fur coats to contend with year-round. Leave your dog at home while you shop. 

Your pup can also run into trouble if there's a lack of access to shade and water in your backyard, or in the area where they are staying. Water and shade are essential on warm weather days, especially for senior dogs and dogs with medical conditions such as obesity. 

Another potential contributing factor when it comes to heatstroke is breed. Short-nosed, flat-faced dogs tend to be more susceptible to breathing issues. As you might imagine, thick coats become uncomfortable quite quickly. Each dog (even ones who love spending time outside playing) needs to be closely supervised, especially in hot weather. 

What are signs of heatstroke in dogs?

Watch your pup closely during the spring and summer months. Heatstroke symptoms in dogs include:

  • Red gums
  • Excessive panting
  • Mental flatness or "dullness"
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Unwilling or unable to move (or uncoordinated movement)
  • Signs of discomfort 
  • Drooling 
  • 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 him 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 his 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 his stomach. A fan may also be useful.

After a few minutes, retake his 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.

Do you think your dog may be suffering from heatstroke? Our veterinary professionals at Pekin Veterinary Clinic have experience in identifying and treating emergency veterinary situations. Contact us right away.

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