Heat Stroke in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes & Prevention

Heat Stroke in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes & Prevention

In this post, our Memphis vets define heat stroke in dogs and explain what symptoms pooch parents should watch for. Also, we describe actions to take if you suspect your dog is suffering from the condition, and provide tips about prevention. 

What is heat stroke in dogs?

Once the hot weather arrives, heat stroke (heat exhaustion) is a grave danger for dogs. Hyperthermia (fever) sets in when body temperature is elevated above a normal range (101.5°F).

Heat stroke, or heat exhaustion, is a form of hyperthermia when excessive heat overwhelms the heat dissipating mechanisms in a dog’s body. 

What causes heat stroke in dogs?

When his body temperature rises past 104°F, he enters the danger zone. Body temperatures above 105°F are indicative of heat stroke. We need to make sure our dogs stay as comfortable and cool as possible in the summer months.

On summer days, the temperature in a vehicle can quickly rise to dangerous levels (even when it does not seem “that hot” to us - remember, your dog has a coat on). Leave your dog at home while you shop.

Similarly, a lack of access to water and shade in a hot backyard or at the beach can spell trouble. Water and shade are vitally important, especially to senior dogs and those with medical conditions, including obesity, as these can exacerbate problems.

Breed is also a contributing factor; flat-faced, short-nosed canines tend to be more vulnerable to breathing problems. Thick coats can also become uncomfortable much quicker. Every dog (even ones who love activity and time outside) needs close supervision, especially on days when the mercury is rising.

What are symptoms of heat stroke?

When warm weather hits, keep a close watch on your dog for symptoms of heat stroke, which may include:

  • Red gums
  • Mental flatness or “dullness”
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Signs of discomfort
  • Drooling
  • Unable or unwilling to move (or uncoordinated movement)
  • Excessive panting
  • Collapsing or loss of consciousness

What should I do if my dog is suffering from heat stroke?

If heat stroke is detected early, fortunately it can be reversed. If you notice your dog exhibiting any symptoms listed above, get him to a cooler place with good air circulation immediately. If symptoms do not improve quickly and you are not able to take your dog’s temperature, immediately take your dog to your veterinarian.

If you have access to a rectal thermometer, take your dog’s temperature. If his temperature is less than 105°F, this is an emergency and your dog will need to see a vet. If his temperature is higher than 105°F, sponge or hose your dog’s body with cool (not cold) water. Pay special attention to his stomach. You can also use a fan.

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 cause problems. You should still take your dog to a veterinarian immediately whether you can reduce his temperature or not.

How can I prevent heat stroke?

Be especially cautious with how much time your canine companion spends outside or in the sun during the summer. Do not expose him to heat and humidity - dog’s bodies (especially those with short faces) are unable to handle it.

NEVER leave your dog in a car with closed windows, even if it’s parked in the shade.

Ensure your pooch as lots of shade to retreat to and easy access to cool water. You can also use a well-ventilated dog crate or specially designed seat belt for dogs.

If you suspect your dog is experiencing heat stroke after hours, contact us. Animal Emergency Center in Memphis offers emergency veterinary services on evenings, weekends and major holidays. For emergency care during regular business hours, contact your primary care veterinarian.

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