Heatstroke in Dogs: What Every Owner Should Know

Regardless of whether you enjoy hot temperatures year-round or just a few brief summer months, your dog can run the risk of heatstroke. Here, our Apple Valley vets share some symptoms of this serious condition and what to do if your dog has it.

What is heatstroke in dogs?

Heatstroke (also known as hyperthermia or prostration) is the increase in your pup's core body temperature as caused by environmental conditions. Your dog's normal body temperature should be about 99 - 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your pup's body temperature rises above 105, they will require urgent veterinary care.

Why do dogs get heatstroke?

When people get hot, we sweat. This works to cool our bodies down. Dog's aren't able to sweat though. Instead, our companions cool their bodies by panting. If panting isn't enough to cool your pooch down, their body temperature may continually rise and eventually cause heatstroke.

Any breed or size of dog can suffer from heatstroke but dogs with thick fur, short noses or those suffering from underlying medical conditions tend to be more susceptible 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 pet

How can I tell if my dog has heatstroke?

One of the most obvious signs of heatstroke in dogs includes excessive panting. That being said, panting isn't the only symptom of this condition in your pup/ Other symptoms that you should be aware of include:

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

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

Heatstroke is a serious condition and its symptoms should always be treated as if they were an emergency. In dogs, heatstroke can cause abnormal blood clotting, kidney failure, intestinal bleeding, swelling of the brain and other life-threatening health issues.

If your dog is displaying signs of heatstroke head to your primary care 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 full to help cool your pet.

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?

The primary focus for your vet will be to safely reduce your pup's body temperature. They may pour cool water over your dogs, neck, face, head and feet as well as applying wet clothes to those areas. In some instances, they may also apply rubbing alcohol to encourage sweating in the pads of your dog's feet by dilating their pores in that area.

Treatment may also involve intravenous fluids, oxygen therapy and mild sedation.

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

What can I do to prevent my dog from developing heatstroke?

When it comes to your pup's health and well-being, preventing heatstroke from occurring in the first place is your best bet. Follow the tips below to help prevent heatstroke in your pup:

  • Never leave a dog alone in a car. The temperature can become unsafe even if parked in the shade or with a window open.
  • Know your dog's level of risk for heatstroke. Breeds with squished or flat faces are more likely to duffer from heatstroke than those with long noses. Some at-risk breeds include bulldogs, mastiffs, Boxersand Boston terriers. 
  • Dogs that are obese or those that have an underlying heart condition may be particularly susceptible to heatstroke.
  • If you have to leave your dog outside for long while it's hot out, give them plenty of water and shade. A baby pool or special cooling vest can also be very helpful.
  • Working dogs can become very 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. 

Is your dog showing signs of heatstroke? Visit our Apple Valley vets to receive urgent veterinary care for your pet during our regular business hours. Or, contact a trusted after-hours emergency veterinary hospital.