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Heatstroke in Dogs - Signs, Treatment & Prevention

What is heatstroke in dogs? Our vets in Gilbert define the condition and share a list of symptoms that you should beware of in warm temperatures. We also offer recommendations on how to prevent heatstroke and what to do if you suspect your dog may be suffering from this serious condition. 

What is heatstroke in dogs?

In hot weather, heatstroke (also referred to as heat exhaustion) is a serious — potentially fatal — hazard for dogs. When a dog's body temperature becomes elevated above a normal range (101.5°F), hyperthermia (fever) can happen. 

Heatstroke is a form of hyperthermia that occurs when excessive heat overwhelms the heat-dissipating mechanisms in your pooch's body. When your pooch's body temperature rises past 104°F, they enter the danger zone. If their body temperature is above 105°F, this indicates heatstroke.

This is why we need to make sure our dogs remain as cool and comfortable as possible during the summer months. 

Causes of Heatstroke in Dogs

On hot days, a vehicle's temperature can easily exceed dangerous levels (even when the inside of our vehicles do not seem "that hot" to us, remember that your dog wars a fur coat). Leave your dog at home while you run errands. 

A lack of access to shade and water at the beach or even in your backyard can also become a problem. Shade and water are essential on warm weather days, particularly for dogs with medical conditions such as obesity, and senior dogs. 

Your dog's breed may also contribute to heatstroke; short-nosed, flat-faced pooches tend to be more susceptible to breathing issues. Thick coats quickly become uncomfortable, as you might imagine. Every dog (even those who are active and relish spending time outside) needs close supervision, especially in warmer temperatures.  

Heatstroke Symptoms in Dogs

During spring and summer, watch carefully for signs of heatstroke in dogs including any combination of the following symptoms:

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

If your pooch is displaying any of the above heatstroke symptoms it's time to take action.

What To Do If Your Dog Shows Signs of Heatstroke

Fortunately, heatstroke in dogs can be reversed if detected early. If you notice your pup displaying any symptoms listed above, immediately take them to a cooler place with good air circulation. If symptoms do not improve quickly and you are not able to take your dog’s temperature, contact your vet immediately for advice. 

Take your dog’s temperature if you have access to a rectal thermometer. If their temperature is above 104°F, this qualifies as an emergency and your dog will need to see a vet. If this temperature is above 105°F, immediately hose or sponge your dog’s body with cool (not cold) water. Pay special attention to their stomach. A fan may also be useful. Contact your vet or your nearest emergency vet for further instructions.

At Crossroads Veterinary Hospital, we typically refer urgent care to local emergency facilities who are equipped to support the needs of Gilbert cats and dogs.

Heatstroke is a very serious condition. Take your dog to a vet right away whether you are able to reduce their temperature or not.

How to Help Prevent Your Dog From Getting Heatstroke

To help prevent your pooch from getting heatstroke you should be very cautious about how much time your dog spends outside or in the sun during the summer. Do not expose your dog to heat and humidity - their bodies (especially those with short faces) are unable to handle it.

NEVER leave your dog in a car with closed windows - even if you park in the shade. Provide your pooch with lots of shade to retreat to and easy access to cool water. A well-ventilated dog crate or specially designed seat belt for dogs may also work well.

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.

Symptoms of heatstroke in dogs should never be ignored! If your dog is showing signs of heatstroke contact us right away at Crossroads Veterinary Hospital, or take your pet to the nearest 24/7 emergency animal clinic for urgent care.

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Contact us today to book your first appointment and find out the difference that caring, compassionate and knowledgeable veterinary service makes in your pet's health and happiness. 

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