When the temperature increases, so does the risk of heatstroke. This dangerous condition can affect both people and pets and it's important to take preventive measures. Here, our Springfield vets talk about the causes of heat stroke in dogs, the signs and symptoms to watch for and what you can do to prevent it.
What is heat stroke?
When a dog spends their time in a hot environment, it increases the risk of suffering heat stroke. Heatstroke (also referred to as heat exhaustion) is a serious – potentially fatal – danger for dogs. When a dog's body temperature is above a normal range (101.5°F), hyperthermia (fever) can occur.
Hyperthermia is commonly referred to as heat stroke and occurs when your dog becomes so warm that they are unable to cool themselves effectively. If your pooch's body temperature rises past 104°F, it enters the danger zone. If body temperature reaches above 105°F, this indicates heatstroke.
This makes it crucial that we provide ways for our canine companions to stay cool when the weather becomes warmer.
What causes a dog to suffer from heat stroke?
When a dog is left in a car during hot weather, they can quickly become too hot. The temperature inside a car can rise rapidly and your fur-covered friend will have no way of escaping the heat inside the car which can quickly become dangerous. Leave the dog at home while you shop.
Your dog may also experience heat stroke if they do not have access to shade and fresh water when they spend time outdoors. Water and shade are essential on warm weather days, particularly for senior dogs and dogs with obesity or other medical conditions.
What are the symptoms of heat stroke in dogs?
You should watch carefully for signs of heatstroke in any dogs in your care, especially during the warmer months, including any combination of these symptoms:
- Excessive panting
- Mental flatness or "dullness"
- Signs of discomfort
- Unable or unwilling to move
- Red gums
- Collapsing or loss of consciousness
If you note any of the signs listed above you should seek veterinary care immediately as heat stroke can be life-threatening when left untreated.
Fortunately, heatstroke symptoms 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 or The Regional Veterinary Referral Center 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 our emergency animal hospital for further instructions.
Heatstroke is a very serious condition and a veterinary medical emergency. Take your dog to a vet right away whether you are able to reduce their temperature or not. Seeking veterinary care right away is crucial as heatstroke can cause an elevated heart rate which can be life-threatening for your dog. The Regional Veterinary Referral Center is equipped to handle both emergency situations and heart-related concerns with a fully equipped cardiology department.
Is there any way to prevent dogs from experiencing heat stroke?
To help prevent your pooch from getting heatstroke, 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.