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Heatstroke in Dogs: Signs & Symptoms

Heatstroke becomes a very real threat to your dog's health as the temperature rises. Our La Pine emergency veterinarians describe the symptoms of this potentially fatal condition in today's post, along with what to do if you believe your dog is suffering from heatstroke.

Heatstroke in Dogs 

A rise in core body temperature brought on by external factors is referred to as heatstroke. Your dog's ideal body temperature ranges from 99 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Veterinarian care must be sought right away if your dog's body temperature exceeds 105. Heatstroke is a very serious condition with a fatal outcome.

Why Dogs Are Susceptible to Heatstroke

People start sweating when they get hot, which helps to cool our bodies down. Dogs are unable to perspire; instead, they pant to cool their bodies. Their body temperature may continue to rise, leading to heatstroke, if panting is insufficient to bring them down.

Any breed or size of dog can suffer from heatstroke but dogs 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
  • Lack of sufficient shade in pet's outdoor play area

Heatstroke Symptoms in Dogs

Excessive panting is the most blatant symptom of heatstroke in dogs. Having said that, panting is not a sign of canine heat exhaustion. Pet owners should be aware of the following additional signs of canine heatstroke:

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

How to Help a Dog With Heatstroke

Heatstroke is an extremely 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 right away. While traveling 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 right away, take your dog out of the heat as soon as you can, and let him or her drink as much cool water as they want without pressuring them. By covering your dog with a towel that has been soaked in cool water—not cold—you can also aid in lowering their body temperature.

Treatment For Heatstroke in Dogs

The veterinary staff's safe reduction of your dog's body temperature is the first step in treating dog heatstroke. Pour cool water over your dog's head, body, and feet, or cover those areas with cool wet cloths. Rubbing alcohol may occasionally be applied to your dog's footpads to aid in pore-dilation and boost perspiration. Intravenous fluids, mild sedation, and low-concentration oxygen therapy are additional options for treating heatstroke in dogs.

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. 

How To Prevent Your Pooch From Developing Heatstroke

When it comes to the health and wellbeing of your four-legged friend, 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
  • Discover how susceptible your dog is to heatstroke, and take precautions to be extra careful around dogs who are at higher risk. Dogs with shorter noses are less likely to experience heatstroke than breeds with flat or "squished" faces. Bulldogs, Boston terriers, Boxers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Shih Tzus, and mastiffs are some of the breeds that are at risk.
  • Dogs that are obese or those that have an underlying heart condition may be particularly susceptible to heatstroke.
  • If your dog spends long periods of time outside 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.

Is your dog displaying signs of heatstroke? Contact us right away or bring your pup straight over to a 24/7 emergency animal clinic in La Pine for urgent veterinary care.

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We are accepting new patients to our La Pine vet clinic. Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of all pets in Central Oregon. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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