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Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs and When It's an Emergency

If you live in a hot climate or enjoy bring outside in the summer with your pup, you have to know the signs of heatstroke in dogs. Heatstroke is an emergency and today our Stockton vets discuss the symptoms of heatstroke in dogs and how you can prevent this possibly deadly condition.

Heatstroke in Dogs

Heatstroke is also called prostration or hyperthermia and is defined as a rise in core body temperature due to environmental conditions. Your dog's normal body temperature should be between 99-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your canine companion's body temperature increases above 105, they will require immediate veterinary care. Heatstroke is a highly serious condition that can be deadly.

How do dogs get heatstroke?

When we humans become hot we start to sweat in order to cool our body temperatures down. However, dogs can't sweat, so they cool themselves down by panting. If panting isn't enough to bring down their temperature it can continue to rise causing heatstroke. 

Dogs of all breeds and sizes can experience heatstroke although, dogs with thick fur, short noses, or those suffering from an underlying medical condition are more susceptible to it.

Below are the most common causes of heatstroke in dogs :

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

Heatstroke Symptoms in Dogs

The most visible sign of heatstroke in dogs is excessive panting. Yet, panting isn't the only symptom of heatstroke in dogs. Other symptoms of heatstroke that you should know about include:

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

What To Do if Your Dog Has Heatstroke

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

If you notice signs of heatstroke in your dog bring them to your primary care veterinarian or the nearest animal emergency hospital immediately. When you are traveling to your vet's office, keep the windows open or turn the air conditioner on full to help your dog cool down.

If you are not able to get to a veterinarian's office immediately, take your pup out of the heat right away and let them drink as much cool water as they want without forcing them to drink. You could also help bring your canine companion's core body temperature down by placing a towel soaked in cool (not cold) water over them.

How Vets Treat Heatstroke in Dogs

Your vet will focus on bringing down your dog's core body temperature safely. Cool water might be poured over your dog's head, body, and feet, or cool wet cloths could be applied to those areas. In some cases, your vet will apply rubbing alcohol to your dog's footpads in order to help dilate pores and increase perspiration. Treatment for dogs with heatstroke can also include intravenous fluids, mild sedation, and low-concentration oxygen therapy.

In addition to treating the immediate symptoms of heatstroke, your veterinarian 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 Your Dog From Developing Heatstroke

When it comes to your pup's health and wellbeing, preventing heatstroke from happening in the first place is key. Heatstroke can be prevented in dogs by following these tips:

  • Never leave a dog in the car alone. Even if it's parked in the shade with the windows cracked open, the temperature in your car can still skyrocket! Studies have shown that even on cooler days, the temperature inside a car can rise by 40 degrees in just one hour.
  • Know your dog's risk level of heatstroke and take the steps needed 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 overweight or those that have an underlying heart condition could be particularly susceptible to heatstroke.
  • If you have to leave your dog outside for a long time when it's hot out, be sure to provide them with lots of water and shade. A baby pool for a dog left outside can help, as they can cool themselves down by jumping in! Special cooling vests are also available for dogs that spend a lot of time in the heat.
  • Working dogs can get very focused on their task and forget to rest. Enforce rest breaks for your working dog to let their body cool down (even if they want to keep working).

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. 

Contact our Stockton vets immediately if you believe your dog has heatstroke because it's considered a medical emergency that requires urgent veterinary care.

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