Know the Signs of Canine Heatstroke

Did you realize that the prime months for dog heatstroke are April and May? That’s because most of us know not to let our dogs overexert themselves during the hot summer months. In the late spring, though, the warm weather creeps up on us and our active dogs keeping running and playing without adjusting to the heat. Heatstroke can cause death so it’s important to be able to recognize the signs and know what to do if you dog overheats.

Causes of Canine Heatstroke

Dogs release heat primarily by panting. On hot days, dogs cannot regulate their internal temperature properly and their temperature can rise rapidly. If your dog has a temperature between 104 F and 106 F, she will typically recover in about an hour. Dogs with a temperature over 106 F are at risk of dying and should be taken to the vet immediately.

Signs of Canine Exhaustion

• Heavy panting

• Skin that’s hot to the touch

• Hyperventilation (deep breathing)

• Bright red tongue and gums

• Increased drooling followed by dry gums

• Weakness

• Confusion, disorientation, staggering

• Vomiting or diarrhea

Signs of Canine Heat Stroke

• Paleness or graying of the gums

• Shallow breaths followed by slowed or absent breathing

• Vomiting and diarrhea that may be bloody

• Seizures or coma

Treatment of Heat Stroke

• Get the dog to a cooler place such as shade or under air conditioning in your car or home

• Take the dog’s temperature with a rectal thermometer. If her temperature is 104 F or below, you can help her recover at home. If the temperature is above 106 F, take your dog to the vet immediately and cool her on the way using ice packs or rubbing alcohol on the pads of her feet.

• For home treatment, use cool or tepid water where air is circulating. Placing a fan in front of your dog and running a hose over her is very effective in lowering her temperature. The goal is not to simply get your dog wet but for the water to evaporate which is why circulating air is so important.

• Check your dog’s temperature every three minutes. Once her temperature starts to drop, stop all cooling efforts.

• Give your dog water but don’t let her drink to much.

• Avoid immersing your dog in water;  this may raise her temperature. Water trapped in the coat acts as an insulator against the cool water.

• Continue to monitor your dog, watching for signs of shock or other troubles. Take your dog to the vet immediately she doesn’t improve.

• Make sure your dog is dry before putting her in a crate or enclosed space. The water won’t be able to evaporate and the crate will be very warm.

Preventing Heat Stroke

• Never leave your dog in the car even with the windows cracked. The temperature inside a car can quickly rise 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature.

• Provide plenty of shade and cold water for dogs outside.

• Exercise your dog during the coolest parts of the day and keep her inside on hot days.

• Monitor your dog closely. Dogs don’t know when to stop so you need to provide rest breaks with water.

Dogs at Risk for Heatstroke

•  Young puppies and older dogs

• Overweight dogs

• Dogs that have previously experienced heatstroke

• Dogs with an existing illness or ones recovering from illness or surgery

• Dog breeds with short face such as bulldogs, pugs, boston terriers

• Dog breeds with double coats such as Chow Chows, Huskies, Malamutes

Legal Disclaimer

This post is for informational purposes only and should not be substituted for a vet’s professional diagnosis and treatment.


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