If you enjoy hot temperatures, you should be aware of heatstroke in dogs, including the causes, symptoms, prevention and cure. Today our Charlotte vets explain the symptoms of this potentially deadly condition and what to do if you think your dog has heatstroke.
What is heatstroke in dogs?
Heatstroke (also called prostration or hyperthermia) is defined as an increase in core body temperature caused by environmental conditions. The normal body temperature for your dog should be around 99 degrees to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (F). If your dog's body temperature exceeds 105 degrees F, you should get to the vet immediately. Heatstroke is an extremely serious condition that can be fatal.
When humans get hot we begin to sweat which works to cool our bodies down. Dogs can't sweat, instead, our canine companions cool their bodies by panting. If panting isn't sufficient to cool themselves down, their body temperature may continue to rise resulting in heatstroke.
Why do dogs get heatstroke?
While a breed or size can suffer from heatstroke, 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:
- Forgetting to provide adequate water for your pet
- Leaving a dog in a car on a hot or sunny day
- Lack of sufficient shade in pet's outdoor play area
How can I tell if my dog has heatstroke?
The most obvious sign of dog heatstroke is excessive panting, but panting isn't the only symptom of heatstroke in dogs. Other heatstroke symptoms in dogs that pet owners should be aware of include:
- Reddened gums
- Mental dullness
- Loss of consciousness
- Uncoordinated movement
What should I do if I think my dog has heatstroke?
Heatstroke is a serious condition and you should always treat any symptoms 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 showing any of the symptoms of heatstroke, be sure to head to your primary care veterinarian or the nearest animal emergency hospital right away. On the way to the vet, make sure to keep the vehicle cold by turning up the air conditioning or rolling down all the windows to help cool down your dog.
If you are unable to get to a vet's office immediately, get your dog away from the hot environment right away and let your pup to drink as much cool water as they want — but don't force 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?
Heatstroke treatments for dogs begin with the vet reducing your dog's body temperature in a safe way. Your vet may pour cool water over your dog's head, body, and feet, or they may apply cool wet cloths to those areas. In some cases, your vet may apply some rubbing alcohol to your dog's footpads in order to help dilate pores and increase perspiration. Treatment for dogs with heatstroke may 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 any signs of secondary complications, like 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 heat stroke?
When it comes to the health and well-being of your pup, preventing heatstroke from ever happening is key. Follow these tips to prevent heatstroke in dogs:
- Even if you park in the shade and leave the windows cracked, you should never leave a dog alone in a car. The temperature in your car can rise by as much as 40 degrees F in as little as one hour.
- Dogs that are obese or those that have an underlying heart condition may be particularly susceptible to heatstroke.
- If you must leave your dog outside for long periods of time when it's hot out, be sure to provide plenty of water and shade. A baby pool for a dog left outside may help, as they can cool themselves down by jumping in! Special cooling vests for dogs are also available for dogs that spend a lot of time in the heat.
- Know your dog's level of heatstroke risk and take steps to be extra cautious with dogs that have an increased risk. Dog breeds with flat or 'squished' faces (a.k.a. brachycephalic) 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.
- Working dogs can become very focused on their job and forget to rest, so make sure you force rest breaks for your working dog to allow your pup's body to cool down.
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.