Heat Stroke in Dogs

Heatstroke in dogs

Heat Stroke in Dogs

When dogs are exposed to high temperatures, heat stroke or heat exhaustion can occur. Heat stroke in dogs is an extremely serious condition that requires immediate veterinary attention.

Dogs regulate their body temperature differently to humans. They do not sweat through their skin, but give off heat mainly by panting and through the pads of their feet and nose. If a dog cannot dissipate heat effectively, its body temperature rises dangerously. Above a temperature of 41°C, the damage to the organs can become irreversible.

Unfortunately, many dogs succumb to heatstroke even though it could easily have been avoided. The following information should help you to recognize the signs of heatstroke and prevent your dog from suffering from it.

Signs of heatstroke in dogs

The following symptoms may indicate heatstroke in a dog:

  • Increased rectal temperature (action required from 40°C, acute action required from 41°C)
  • Heavy panting or difficulty breathing
  • Thick saliva
  • Dizziness or disorientation
  • Collapse and/or unconsciousness
  • Dark red gums
  • Sticky or dry mucous membranes (especially on the gums)
  • Lying down and not wanting or being able to get up
  • Muscle tremors or seizures

Immediate action if heatstroke is suspected

If you suspect that your dog is suffering from heatstroke, take the following measures immediately:

  1. Get your dog out of the heat and into the shade immediately.
  2. Start cooling by placing cool, wet towels or washcloths on the body, especially on the pads of the feet and head.
  3. Do not use ice or very cold water as this will constrict the blood vessels and prevent the core of the body from cooling. Stop cooling when the body temperature reaches 39°C.
  4. Offer your dog cool water, but do not force water into his mouth.
  5. Seek veterinary advice immediately, even if your dog’s condition appears to be improving. Internal damage cannot be seen with the naked eye and a thorough examination is necessary. In many cases, hospitalization is required until the temperature is stabilized. More serious complications may require intensive care for several days.

Preventing heatstroke in dogs

To prevent heatstroke, follow these tips:

  • Never leave your dog alone in the car on warm days, whether the windows are open or not. Even when the outside temperature is moderate, the inside of a car can quickly become dangerously hot.
  • Avoid strenuous activity on warm days and seek out shady areas when outside.
  • Always provide fresh, cool water.
  • Certain dogs are particularly sensitive to heat, especially overweight dogs and brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds such as pugs and bulldogs. Take extra care when these dogs are exposed to high temperatures.