Heat Stroke In Dogs

Did you find a dog in a hot car for too long? Or has your dog come inside and are panting very hard? They may be suffering from heatstroke. This is a common condition that is seen in the hot summer weather in dogs who spend a lot of time outside with little to no shade. Dogs who suffer from heatstroke may need medical attention to fully recover to their happy and healthy life.

What is heatstroke?

Heatstroke is used to describe an elevated body temperature. If your dog has an infection, they may have a slightly elevated body temperature. This would be between 103 and 104. If your dog’s body temperature rises above 106 without any severe infection, this would be considered heatstroke. These dogs have usually been exposed to the heat outside for too long. This can be even very critical if your dog’s body temperature reaches above 107. This is when multiple organ failure and even death can quickly occur.

What Causes My Dog to Have heatstroke?

There are many reasons that your dog may have heatstroke. The most common cause is a dog that is left in a car for too long without and air or ventilation. This can cause your dog’s body temperature to rise very quickly. Dogs do not control their body temperature by sweating like people dogs. Their primary way of regulating their body temperature is by painting. If you see your dog panting excessively, it would be best to bring them in and cool them off.

Other reasons that your dog may suffer from heatstroke are:

  • Being left outside in the heat without shade or water
  • Intensive exercise on a hot day
  • Dogs who are extremely excited
  • Dogs with long hair who do not have a place to stay cool
  • Obese dogs can develop heatstroke

Dogs who are brachycephalic such as pugs, boxers, and bulldogs, are at great risk for developing heatstroke. In these breeds, heatstroke can be seen even when the outside temperatures are not elevated.

What are the signs or symptoms a dog would be showing with heatstroke?

Signs of heatstroke are very similar to the signs seen in humans, although dogs pant more in an effort to cool themselves.

  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Warm to touch especially their ears
  • Red gums
  • Fast heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Dry nose
  • Quiet or poorly responsive, they may lay down and refuse or be unable to rise
  • Blood in mouth or stool
  • Muscle tremors
  • Ataxia or staggering gait
  • Seizures
  • Coma

How is Heatstroke Treated?

If you think that your dog has heatstroke, you should immediately bring them to us at Corona Animal Emergency Hospital. This will require emergency medical treatment. Your vet will be able to safely reduce your dog’s body temperature to normal levels. There are many things that can be done to help your dog cool, but the main thing that your vet will do is give your dog IV fluids. This will help cool their internal body temperature.

Other things that your vet may do to help them cool off are pouring cool (not cold) water over your dog’s head, body, and feet. This will help keep your dog’s skin cool. They may apply to rub alcohol to their foot pads. This helps increase perspiration in the feet. They may place your dog on ice packs to help keep them cool.

Depending on other signs that your dog may be showing would affect what treatment your dog needs. Some severe cases of heatstroke will cause your dog to have seizures. This would need IV seizure medications to control.

Your dog’s rectal temperature will be taken every few minutes until your dog’s body temperature reaches 103. Then your vet will decrease the cooling methods to keep from dropping your dog’s body temperature too low.

How to Prevent my dog from having heatstroke?

There are many different things that you can do to help prevent heatstroke in your dog. Do not leave your dog in your car during hot weather. Even in early spring and late fall, it can get very hot inside your car. Even just a short trip into the store can result in your dog getting heatstroke.

During warmer days, make sure that there is plenty of shade and cool water. If your dog has long hair in the summertime, consider getting them a pool to play in or do not leave them outside very long.

For dogs who are predisposed to heatstroke, it would be best to monitor them the whole time that they are outside playing.

What is the Prognosis of a Dog who has heatstroke?

The prognosis of heat stroke will depend on how high your dog’s body temperature was and how long it took to return to normal. If their temperature did not get very high, they would most likely recover very quickly. Some pets may have very high temperatures and will suffer organ damage or may die at a later date due to secondary conditions that they have developed.

Final Thoughts

Heatstroke in dogs can occur not only in the hot summer months but also in spring and fall. If you think that your dog has suffered from heatstroke, it would be best for them to see one of our vets at Corona Animal Emergency Hospital right away as the quicker your dog’s temperature returns to normal, the most likely your dog will make a full recovery.

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