Here, our Benicia vets define heatstroke in dogs and provide a list of symptoms that you should watch out for as the temperature rises. We also share recommendations on how to prevent heatstroke and what to do if you think that your dog is suffering from this serious condition.
What Is Heatstroke In Dogs?
As hot weather arrives, heatstroke (also known as heat exhaustion) is a serious — potentially fatal — danger for dogs. When a dog’s body temperature is elevated above a normal range (101.5°F), hyperthermia (fever) can occur.
A heatstroke is a form of hyperthermia. It happens when the heat-dissipating mechanisms in your dog’s body are overwhelmed by excessive heat. When your dog's body temperature rises past 104°F, they enter the danger zone. If body temperature is above 105°F, this indicates heatstroke.
That’s why we need to ensure our dogs stay as cool and comfortable as possible during the summer months.
Causes of Heatstroke in Dogs
On summer days, a vehicle's temperature can quickly exceed dangerous levels (even when the inside of our vehicles does not seem “that hot” to us, remember that your dog has a fur coat on). Leave the dog at home while you shop.
A lack of access to water and shade in your backyard or at the beach can also spell trouble. Shade and water are vital on warm weather days, especially for dogs with medical conditions such as obesity, and senior dogs.
Your dog's breed could also be a contributing factor when it comes to heatstroke; flat-faced, short-nosed pups tend to be more vulnerable to breathing issues. As you might imagine, thick coats quickly become uncomfortable. Each dog (even ones who love spending time outside engaging in activities) requires close supervision, especially on days when the mercury is rising.
Heatstroke Symptoms in Dogs
During spring and summer, watch carefully for signs of heatstroke in dogs including any combination of the following symptoms:
- Mental “dullness” or flatness
- Red gums
- Excessive panting
- Signs of discomfort
- Unable or unwilling to move (or uncoordinated movement)
- Collapsing or loss of consciousness
If your dog is displaying any of the above heatstroke symptoms it's time to take action.
What To Do If Your Dog Shows Signs of Heatstroke
Fortunately, heatstroke in dogs can be reversed if detected early. If you notice your dog 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 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 your vet or your nearest emergency vet for further instructions.
Heatstroke is a very serious condition. Take your dog to a vet right away whether you can reduce their temperature or not.
How to Help Prevent Your Dog From Getting Heatstroke
To help prevent your dog 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 dog 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.