Hot days and summer months are a good time to enjoy the great outdoors with your dog. However, it may also lead to a disaster. High temperature puts him at risk of experiencing heat stroke. In this article, you will learn the causes, symptoms, and how to handle heat stroke in dogs.
What is heat stroke in dogs?
Heat stroke is also known as hyperthermia or health exhaustion. It occurs when the body has an elevated temperature. If your dog’s body temperature goes over 103°F (39.4°C), it is called abnormal or hyperthermia.
Once his body heat exceeds 106°F (41°F) when an illness is absent, it is called heat stroke. About 107°F to 109°F (41.2°C to 42.7°C) is considered a critical temperature. This can be highly fatal for dogs and can result in multiple organ failure and loss of life.
What causes heat stroke in dogs?
A dog may suffer from hyperthermia for a variety of reasons. Here are the main causes of heat stroke in dogs:
- High temperature and humidity
- Confinement in a hot car or area with no proper ventilation
- Insufficient fresh water
- Too much exercise
- Lack of proper shade
Other factors that cause heat stroke in dogs
All canines are in danger of experiencing heat stroke. However, other predisposing factors make some dogs more susceptible to this condition. These include:
- Heart diseases
- Neurological diseases
- Respiratory disease or breathing difficulties (e.g., laryngeal paralysis)
- Active and working dog breeds (e.g., shepherds, retrievers, and spaniels)
- Thick or long-coated dog breeds
- Brachycephalic dog breeds or flat-faced breeds (e.g., boxer, pug, and bulldogs)
- Age (young and old dogs)
- Placing muzzles on dogs
What are the signs of heat stroke in dogs?
Heat stroke requires immediate emergency care. If handled too late, it can result in dire consequences. Thus, pet owners need to spot the first signs of heat stroke in dogs, which are:
- Dry nose
- Lack of coordination
- Increased heart rate
- Glazed eyes
- Warm to touch
Critical symptoms of heat stroke in dogs
Dogs that are dangerously overheated will show these warning signs:
- Bloody mouth or stool
- Gums or tongue may turn either blue or bright red
- Loss of consciousness
How to treat heat stroke in dogs
If your dog is showing the symptoms stated above, be sure to address the problem right away. Here are steps that you can follow to save him from heat stroke:
- Move your dog in a shady or cool area. If possible, bring him indoors to reduce his exposure to heat.
- Safely lowering his body temperature is your priority. Use cool water (it can be lukewarm for puppies and small dogs) to pour on his armpits, head, feet, and stomach. You can use a cool cloth to do this. Avoid dousing your dog in cold water as this will cause adverse effects to his condition.
- If you have a fan, use it to dry him off and keep him cool. Consider applying rubbing alcohol on his footpads. This will dilate the pores and boost perspiration. Ice can also be placed around his mouth and bottom to help him cool down.
- Check his body temperature every few minutes with a pet thermometer. Once it lowers to 103ºF (39.4ºC), you can turn off the fan and stop applying water. Keep in mind to avoid using a glass thermometer as your dog may bite it off.
- Start giving him small amounts of cool or lukewarm water to get him hydrated. Again, do not give an overheated dog cold water or ice.
- Contact the vet promptly. Make sure to get your dog checked even if he successfully recovered. The vet might require him to be monitored for health complications caused by heat stroke.
How do vets treat heat stroke in dogs?
Treating heat stroke involves checking your dog’s body temperature and vital signs. After that, the vet will administer the appropriate treatment such as:
- Intravenous fluid (IV) drip
- Cooling enemas
- Supplemental oxygen
Dog heat stroke treatment also includes monitoring their condition for possible health complications. These may include shock, kidney failure, respiratory and heart problems.
Blood clotting is a common complication as well. Thus, blood samples may be collected before and during the treatment. This is to observe the clotting time of your dog’s blood.
Aftercare for Dog Heat Exhaustion
Most cases of dogs with moderate heat stroke recover without complications. If hyperthermia is severe or lacked immediate intervention, it may result in organ damage. The vet might prescribe a special diet for your dog to aid his recuperation.
Dogs that had experienced heat stroke have high chances of going through it again. That is why it is crucial to take preventive measures to protect your pooch on hot days.
How to prevent heat stroke in dogs
There are lots of ways to make sure that your dog is safe from heat stroke. Below are useful tips that you can do in the summer season:
- Do not walk your dog during the hottest time of the day. Do it early in the morning or evening. If you are out for long walks, be sure to bring enough drinking water with you.
- Never leave your dog in a parked car. The temperature can quickly accumulate inside, which is extremely dangerous. Every year, many dogs succumbed to heat stroke due to being locked in a hot car.
- Our canine friends only have sweat glands on the pads of their feet to regulate body heat, drink water, pant, or rest. Thus, give your dog a generous amount of water every day.
- If you have a working dog, make sure to give him multiple breaks. Working dogs tend to be very focused on their task and they do not realise that their body cannot keep up with the heat. So monitor your pooch closely and do not let him overdo it.
- Consider doing doggy activities that involve water. Take him to the sea for a swim or let him play with the sprinkler in your backyard. This will not only keep him cool but will also give him the exercise that he needs.
- If you have a thick- or long-coated dog, you might want to give him a short haircut. It will help keep him cool during the hot months. Just make sure not to cut it too short as it protects his skin from the sun.
- Keep track of your dog’s health. Be sure to know if your furry companion is predisposed to any health conditions. Obesity, heart diseases, and respiratory problems can easily contribute to heat stroke.
Flat-faced or brachycephalic dogs are prone to heat stroke, whilst Arctic dog breeds should be kept in cold temperatures. Puppies and senior dogs can struggle during hot days as well. Take the necessary precautions to keep them cool despite the heat.