When temperatures rise and the sun comes out heatstroke becomes a very serious health concern for our canine companions. Today, our Santa Cruz County vets share the symptoms of heatstroke and how you can protect your dog from this potentially deadly condition.
Heatstroke in Dogs
Heatstroke (also called prostration or hyperthermia) happens when your pup's core body temperature rises higher than it should due to external conditions. Normally, your dog's temperature should be between 99 - 102. 5ºF. When experiencing heatstroke, their temperate will rise above this.
Never ignore signs of heatstroke in dogs. Heatstroke is an extremely serious condition that can be fatal if left untreated. If your pet's body temperature rises above 105ºF, immediate veterinary care is required.
Why Dogs Get Heatstroke
Unlike humans, dogs pant instead of sweating to cool down. If panting isn't sufficient to cool themselves down, their body temperature may continue to rise resulting in heatstroke.
Dogs of any size or breed can suffer from heatstroke but those with thick fur, short noses, or those suffering from underlying medical conditions tend to be more susceptible to this condition.
The most common causes of heatstroke in dogs include:
- Leaving a dog in a car on a hot or sunny day
- Forgetting to provide adequate water for your pet on hot days
- Not enough shade in pet's outdoor play area
Signs That Your Dog May Have Heatstroke
Excessive panting is typically the first sign of a dog suffering from heatstroke. However, there are a few other symptoms of heatstroke you should be aware of:
- Reddened gums
- Mental dullness
- Loss of consciousness
- Uncoordinated movement
What To Do If Your Dog Might Have Heatstroke
Heatstroke is a serious condition and symptoms should always be treated as an emergency. Heatstroke in dogs can lead to life-threatening issues such as abnormal blood clotting, swelling of the brain, kidney failure, and intestinal bleeding.
If you notice that your dog is displaying signs of heatstroke get them out of the heat immediately head to your primary care vet or the nearest animal emergency hospital. While on your way to the vet's, keep the air conditioning on or the windows down to avoid increasing your dog's temperature.
You can also wrap them in cool (not cold), wet towels, and offer them as much water as they want without forcing them to drink.
How Vets Treat Heatstroke in Dogs
The first thing your vet will do is lower your dog's body temperature. Cool water may be poured over your dog's head, body, and feet, or cool wet cloths may be applied to those areas. In some cases rubbing alcohol may be applied to your dog's footpads in order to help dilate pores and increase perspiration. Treatment for dogs with heatstroke may also include 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.
Preventing Your Dog From Getting Heatstroke
When it comes to the health and wellbeing of your pup, preventing heatstroke from ever happening is key. Prevent heatstroke in dogs by following the tips below:
- 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 skyrocket! Studies have shown that even on cooler days, the temperature inside a car can rise by as much as 40 degrees in as little as one hour.
- Know your dog's level of heatstroke risk and take 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 may be particularly susceptible to heatstroke.
- If you must leave your dog outside for long periods of time when it's hot out, be sure to provide plenty of water and shade. A baby pool for a dog left outside may 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 become very focused on their job and forget to rest. Enforce rest breaks for your working dog to allow your pup's body to 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.