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Sings and Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs

When the weather gets hot it can be tempting to spend all day outside in the heat with your dog. However, heatstroke in dogs is a potentially deadly condition that you should be aware of. That's why our Ypsilanti vets are explaining the signs and symptoms of heatstroke in dogs and what you should do.

What is dog heatstroke?

Heatstroke is also known as prostration or hyperthermia, and it happens when there is an increase in a dog's core body temperature due to environmental conditions. The normal body temperature of your canine companion should be approximately 99-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your pup's body temperature rises past 105, bring them to your vet for immediate veterinary care. Heatstroke is a very serious condition that could be fatal.

How do dogs get heatstroke?

When we humans get hot our bodies start to sweat in order to cool down. Dogs aren't able to sweat, so they cool themselves down by panting. If panting isn't enough for them to cool down, their body temperature could keep rising causing heatstroke. 

Any breed or size of dog can develop heatstroke however, dogs with thick fur, short noses, or those suffering from underlying medical conditions are typically 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
  • Lack of sufficient shade in pet's outdoor play area

Signs of heatstroke in dogs

Excessive panting is the most obvious sign of heatstroke in dogs. That said, panting isn't the only symptom of heatstroke in dogs. Other symptoms of heatstroke that dog parents should be aware of include:

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

What should I do if I believe my dog has 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 your dog is displaying signs of heatstroke head to your primary care veterinarian, or the nearest animal emergency hospital immediately. While on your way to the vet's office, keep the windows open or the air conditioner on full to help cool your pet.

If you can't get to a vet's office immediately, remove the dog from the hot environment straight away and allow your pup to drink as much cool water as they want without forcing them to drink. You can also help to bring your dog's body temperature down by placing a towel soaked in cool (not cold) water over them.

How to treat heatstroke in dogs

Your veterinarian's primary focus will be on safely reducing your dog's body temperature. Cool water might 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.

On top of treating the immediate symptoms of heatstroke, your vet will also monitor your dog 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 getting heatstroke

When it comes to the health and wellbeing of your dog, preventing heatstroke from happening in the first place is key. You can prevent heatstroke in dogs by following these tips:

  • 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. 

If your dog is displaying any of the heatstroke symptoms we mentioned above contact our vets in Ypsilanti immediately! Heatstroke in dogs can be deadly and requires immediate veterinary care.

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