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Heat Stroke in Dogs

05/21/2015 by Colleen Williams
May 21st, 2015 by Colleen Williams
        

As spring turns to summer, rising temperatures put pets at risk of developing heat stroke. This common condition is entirely preventable – keep your dog cool and hydrated to avoid overheating. Read on to learn how to detect, diagnose, treat and prevent heat stroke in dogs.

heat stroke in dogs

Always provide your pet with shade when spending time outdoors. (Flickr.com/photobyaaron)

What is heat stroke?

Also known as hyperthermia, heat stroke in dogs occurs when core temperature rises too high. At a certain point, the animal can no longer regulate its body temperature – a too-high temp is 103 degrees Fahrenheit and above – and organ failure may begin.

Some may categorize heat stroke in dogs as environmental or exertional. In the former, high temperatures and humidity are considered the primary causes; exertional heat stroke is caused by too much physical activity, leading the dog to overheat.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke in Dogs

It’s important to keep a close on your pet in hot weather, as early detection is the key to preventing heat stroke in dogs.

The Top 10 Signs of Heatstroke in Pets are:

  1. Body temperatures reaching 104 – 110 degrees
  2. Excessive panting
  3. Dark or bright red tongue and gums
  4. Sticky or dry tongue and gums
  5. Staggering or being unable to walk straight
  6. Stupor
  7. Seizures
  8. Bloody diarrhea or vomiting
  9. Coma
  10. Death

Harsh, noisy panting is a primary sign a dog is overheating; panting is dogs’ main method of keeping cool. Excessive drooling is another symptom of heat stroke in dogs. As the condition advances, muscle tremors, confusion, seizures, shock and coma can arise – if you suspect your pet has heat stroke, seek immediate veterinary care.

Short-snouted or brachycephalic dog breeds – those with short noses and flat faces, like pugs and boxers – are more prone to developing heat stroke, as they already have minor difficulties breathing.

DIY dog ice treat

DIY your own dog ice treats by freezing a water/chicken broth mixture and adding small treats. (Flickr.com/francapicc)

Emergency Heat Stroke Treatment

If your pet displays symptoms of heat stroke, it’s essential to immediately bring core body temperature down.

  • Get your pet in a cool, shady place.
  • Use cool (not ice cold as it can shock their system) water or wet towels on pulse points – the head, stomach, armpits and feet until you can get to a veterinarian.
  • Offer your pet ice cubes to lick until you can reach a veterinarian.
  • Stop assisted cooling once your pet’s body temperature reaches 103 degrees (any lower and pets can become hypothermic).

Heat stroke in dogs is a serious medical condition that can affect the internal organs. Even if your pet looks okay on the outside, always make sure to get them checked out by a vet to rule out and/or treat and internal injuries or damage caused by the excessive heat.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Heat Stroke

A veterinarian will take your dog’s temperature and check other vital signs. Depending on the severity and duration, heat stroke in dogs is treated with rehydration and controlled reduction of body temperature. Intravenous fluids may be given for hydration, as well as oxygen therapy.

In extreme cases of heat stroke in dogs, complications may develop requiring additional treatment. High body temperature can harm internal organs, which can have long-lasting impacts on a pet’s health. Senior dogs and pets with preexisting medical conditions may require more intensive treatment and have a longer recovery time.

dog cooling vest

Prevent heat stroke in dogs with a cooling vest. Soak it in water to keep pups cool through evaporation. (Ruffwear.com)

Prevent Heat Stroke in Dogs

It’s very simple to prevent heat stroke in dogs – keep your pet cool! Never, ever leave your pet in a car unattended. Always provide a shaded area and plenty of water when spending time outdoors. In hotter climates, ice cubes or ice packs can help keep body temp down. Create a DIY dog ice lick or purchase freezable dog toys to make keeping cool easy and fun.

Cooling vests are also available, reflecting the sun’s rays and working to reduce body temperature through evaporation. Some have removable ice pack-like inserts to keep pets cool all day long. A cooling mat or pad is a good option for extreme temps where even the shade is too hot; these work through gel inserts, removable ice packs, or simply soaking the pad.

Prevention tips summary:

  • Give access to plenty of shade and fresh water.
  • Keep your pet groomed appropriately.
  • Avoid long walks, hikes, and jogs in the middle of a warm day.
  • Never leave your pet in the car, not even for a quick errand. If you sit in your car for a few minutes and start to feel too hot, your pet will too.

Things to Remember About Heat Stroke

  • Heat stroke can occur even on relatively mild days.
  • There is usually a progression from mild heat stress to more moderate heat exhaustion to heat stroke, but this progression can happen very quickly.
  • The temperature in a car increases about 19 degrees every 10 minutes. That means a car can go from a comfortable 70 degrees to nearly 90 degrees in just over 10 minutes.
  • Walking, hiking, or jogging outside during hot days can burn your pets’ paws. If the sidewalk is too hot for you to walk on barefoot, then it’s too hot for your pet.

Featured image via Flickr.com/johnha.