Heatstroke in Dogs: Why You Need to Act Quickly!

Summer is here and with it comes a higher risk of heatstroke in dogs.

In this post, I want to walk you through what is heatstroke and what are the biggest risk factors. It’s also important to know how to prevent it, what are the signs that tell you your dog is having one and what to do about it. 

That way, if it happens to your dog, you’re able to catch it early. This is important so that your dog won’t suffer permanent and severe consequences.

So let’s jump right into it!

What Is Heatstroke?

Heatstroke has many names such as heat exhaustion or hyperthermia.

Hyperthermia is when the body temperature is above a comfortable and normal standard. In dogs, the normal body temperature is 101.5ºF (38.6ºC). Hyperthermia in dogs happens when their body temperature reaches 103ºF (39.4ºC). It’s most dangerous when it reaches 107ºF (41.7ºC). That’s when organs start to fail and death becomes a very likely possibility.

A heatstroke is a form of nonpyrogenic hyperthermia. This means that the high temperature is not caused by fever (i.e. infection). Heatstroke happens when a dog’s organism is no longer able to keep its temperature at a normal level.

Bodies attempt to maintain their normal temperature in high-temperature environments through heat-dissipating mechanisms. In humans, the most common example of a heat-dissipating mechanism is sweating. 

While humans are able to sweat through every pore in their body, the same does not happen with dogs. Dogs have a very small number of sweat glands. These are located in their footpads and around their nose. Dogs’ main heat-dissipating mechanism is panting.

In extreme situations, panting is not enough. That’s when the dog’s body temperature rises. If nothing is done to bring the temperature down, it can rise to the point where the dog has a heatstroke.

Heatstroke is a very serious condition. As mentioned above, high body temperatures can damage your dog’s internal organs. Which can even lead to death.


Risk Factors for Heatstroke

Any dog can suffer from heatstroke but there are some dogs that are more susceptible than others. Dogs with a higher risk of suffering from heatstroke are:

  • Thick and long-haired breeds
  • Brachycephalic breeds (such as pugs, boxers, and bulldogs) that have restricted airways
  • Dogs with neurological, breathing or heart problems
  • Obese dogs

But don’t think that, just because your dog is fit and healthy, there isn’t a chance that he’ll suffer from heatstroke. 

If conditions are right, he too can have problems with a higher temperature. Keep in mind what you can do to prevent it.

Preventing Heatstroke in Dogs

This is even more important if your dog has any of the risk factors listed above. But, even if your dog doesn’t have any of the characteristics mentioned, that doesn’t mean he’s safe.

If you are hot, so is your dog. You can take that for granted. So it’s important that you know how you can prevent your dog from suffering from heatstroke. The best ways to do that are:

  • Not leaving your dog alone inside a parked car that is out in the sun or poorly ventilated
  • Avoid exercising your dog in the peak of the heat and avoid excessive exercise on warmer days
  • Keep your house cool and well ventilated
  • Have water always available for your dog
  • Don’t leave your dog out in the yard without any shade or water on a hot day

There is no telling how long it takes for a dog to die from heatstroke as it’s different for each dog. But, it can be as little as 15 minutes. 

So don’t take any chances, it’s your dog’s life we’re talking about.

Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs

If caught on an early stage, the consequences of heatstroke can be easily reversible. So it’s crucial that you know what are the most common signs you’ll see in your dog. These are:

  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling
  • Warm to touch
  • Quick heartbeat
  • Dry nose
  • Quiet or barely responsive
  • Laying down and refusing to get up
  • Reduced urine production
  • Blood in his mouth or stool
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures

If your dog shows any (or many) of those signs, take the following steps to help him. You need to act quickly!


6 Steps to Deal With Heatstroke in Dogs

  1. Stop your dog and take him to a cooler area with shade and good air circulation.
  2. Take your dog’s temperature using a rectal thermometer. Keep monitoring your dog’s temperature as you apply the next steps. Stop once your dog shows signs of recovery or his body temperature falls to 103ºF (39.4ºC).
  3. Give your dog as much cool water as he wants to drink but don’t force him to drink.
  4. Pour cool water over your dog’s head, stomach, and feet. You can also use cool cloths. Don’t use ice-cold water or ice as it may make it worse.
  5. Wetting down the are around your dog is also a big help.
  6. Call your vet or the nearest emergency veterinary hospital or clinic. Tell them you are on your way and take your dog there!

Bottom Line

There are some dogs that are more prone to heatstroke than others but all of them can suffer from it!

In warmer days, make sure you keep an eye out for your dog so you can identify any early signs of heatstroke. That way you can increase your dog’s chances of not having any permanent damages.

How well your dog gets out of it depends on how high his body temperature is and for how long. It also greatly depends on your dog’s medical history.

If his body temperature doesn’t rise too much and your dog is healthy, it will recover quickly.

But don’t take it lightly. Take your dog to the vet if needed. Better safe than sorry!

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