If you are a dog parent and enjoy being out in hot weather with your pup or you live in a warm climate you have to be aware of heatstroke. In this blog, our Hoquiam vets talk about the symptoms of heatstroke and what you should do if your canine companion has this potentially deadly condition.

Heatstroke in Dogs

Heatstroke is a medical condition that is also known as prostration or hyperthermia. It is defined as an increase in core body temperature caused by environmental conditions. Your dog's normal body temperature should be approximately 99-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your pup's body temperature rises above 105, they will require immediate veterinary care. Heatstroke is a very serious condition that can potentially be fatal for dogs.

Why Do Dogs Get Heatstroke?

When people get too hot our bodies start to sweat in order to cool down. Dogs aren't able to sweat, instead, they pant to cool their bodies down. If panting isn't enough for them to cool down, their body temperature could continue to rise causing heatstroke. 

Dogs of any breed or size can suffer from heatstroke however, dogs with thick fur, short noses, or those suffering from underlying medical conditions are often more susceptible to this condition.

The most common causes of heatstroke in dogs include:

  • Leaving your dog in a car on a hot or sunny day
  • Forgetting to provide your pet with enough water
  • Lack of sufficient shade in your companion's outdoor play area

Symptoms of Heatstroke In Dogs

The most recognizable sign of heatstroke in dogs is excessive panting. However, panting isn't the only symptom of heatstroke in dogs. Other symptoms of heatstroke you should be aware of include:

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

What To Do If Your Dog Has Heatstroke

Heatstroke is a serious condition and symptoms should always be treated as an emergency! Heatstroke in dogs can cause life-threatening issues including abnormal blood clotting, swelling of the brain, kidney failure, and intestinal bleeding. 

If your pup is showing signs of heatstroke immediately go to your primary care veterinarian, or the closest animal emergency hospital. While traveling to the vet, keep your windows open or the air conditioner on full to help cool your pet.

If you can't get to a vet's office right away, remove your dog from the hot environment straight away and let them drink as much cool water as they want without forcing them to drink. You can also help bring your pup's body temperature down by placing a towel soaked in cool (not cold) water over them.

How is Heatstroke in Dogs Treated?

Your veterinarian's primary focus will be on safely reducing your dog's body temperature. They might pour cool water over your dog's head, body, and feet, or apply cool wet cloths to those areas. Sometimes vets will apply rubbing alcohol to your dogs' footpads in order to help dilate pores and increase perspiration. Treatment for dogs with heatstroke could also consist of 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 will for secondary complications such as changes in blood pressure, electrolytes abnormalities, kidney failure, development of neurologic symptoms, and abnormal clotting. 

How To Prevent Heatstroke in Dogs

When it comes to the health and wellbeing of your dog, it's key to prevent heatstroke from ever happening.  Heatstroke in dogs can be prevented with the following tips:

  • Never leave a dog alone in a car. Even if you park in the shade and leave the windows cracked the temperature in your car could rise quickly! Studies have shown that even on cooler days, the temperature inside a car can rise by 40 degrees in as little as one hour.
  • Know your dog's level of heatstroke risk and take the necessary steps to be extra cautious with dogs that have an increased risk. Dog breeds with flat or 'squished' faces (aka 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.
  • Dogs that are obese or those that have an underlying heart condition can be particularly susceptible to heatstroke.
  • If you have to leave your dog outside for long periods of time when it's hot out, give them plenty of water and shade. Leaving a baby pool outside for your dog can 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.
  • Working dogs can get very focused on their job and forget to rest. Enforce rest breaks for your working dog to let their body 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. 

If your dog is exhibiting signs of heatstroke contact our Hoquiam vets immediately because heatstroke is a serious condition that requires immediate veterinary care.