Heatstroke in dogs is very common especially during the summer when temperatures reach an all-time high. Pet owners like you should be aware of the causes and symptoms of heatstroke so you would know what to do in case your dog suffers from one. In the guide below, we’ve put into detail everything you need to know about this serious condition.
WHAT IS HEATSTROKE?
Heatstroke is a form of hyperthermia, a term used to describe the rapid and abnormal rise in core body temperature. It occurs when the body fails to regulate the way it generates heat. Humans can release heat through sweating; dogs can only do so by panting. When panting is no longer enough to help them eliminate heat, their temperature shoots up uncontrollably, resulting in heat stroke.
CAUSES OF HEATSTROKE
Aside from hot weather conditions, another common cause of heat stroke is careless owner actions such as leaving dogs inside a car or any unventilated, confined space, especially if they are left without access to water. Dogs with short noses, thick fur, and underlying health issues are more prone to heat stroke, so they must be monitored closely when during any physical activity outdoors. Flat-faced dog breeds such as pugs and bulldogs are also at higher risk of suffering from heatstroke, as well as dogs who are overweight.
HOW TO TELL HEATSTROKE IN DOGS
It is important to know what the signs and symptoms of heatstroke in dogs are and to be prompt in addressing them. These include:
- Excessive panting. If your dog is panting constantly or has difficulty breathing, they could be overheated.
- Dehydration. Signs of dehydration include dry nose, visible tiredness, excessive panting, and sunken eyes.
- Excessive drooling. Keep an eye out for lots of drool, or drool that is thicker and stickier than usual.
- If your dog’s nose is dry and hot instead of wet and cool, they could have a fever. A body temperature above 103°F is considered abnormal.
- Bright red, gray, purple, or bluish gums. If your dog’s gums are a different color than normal, they could be dehydrated.
- If your pet has trouble producing urine, they could be dehydrated or overheated.
- Rapid pulse. Place your hand on their chest near their front elbow joint. If their pulse seems elevated, it could be they’re feeling the heat. Bigger dogs tend to have slower pulses, while small dogs and puppies have very quick pulses.
- Muscle tremors. If your dog is shivering or shaking regardless of outside temperature, it may be caused by heat exhaustion.
- Lethargy or weakness. Overheating can cause dogs to nap more than normal or having trouble standing up or walking.
- Vomiting or diarrhea. Abnormally soft stool, or stool with blood in it, is a big warning sign for heat exhaustion.
- Dizziness. If your dog seems to have trouble walking straight or keeps bumping into furniture, they might be lightheaded from dehydration or heat exhaustion.
These are the most common and easily detectable symptoms of heat exhaustion, but there are many more. When in doubt, call your local vet. Keeping your dog safe and healthy is the most important thing.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DOG SUFFERS FROM HEATSTROKE
- Take your dog to a cooler area immediately (preferably indoors).
- Lower their body temperature with cool water (not ice-cold as it may cause shock to their system)
- Apply more cool water around their ears and paws to reduce fever.
- Put them in front of a fan to dry off. Once their temperature drops to 103 degrees (F), remove the fan and stop applying water. Don’t let it drop lower than that because it may also be harmful for your dog.
- Offer them water but don’t force them to drink a lot if they don’t want to.
- Call your veterinarian as soon as possible. Even if your dog seems to be recovering, they may need to be monitored for shock, dehydration, kidney failure, and other possible complications of heat exhaustion.
If your dog loses consciousness or seems severely ill (vomiting, seizing, etc.) take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible so proper treatment can be given. Your vet would most likely run blood tests to check organ function, and administer intravenous fluids and additional oxygen to stabilize their breathing.
TIPS IN PREVENTING HEATSTROKE IN DOGS
- Make sure your dog’s space is cool and well-ventilated at all times. If they are outdoors, they should have access to shade.
- Cool drinking water should always be accessible for your dogs wherever they may be in your home to avoid dehydration.
- Refrain from letting your dogs exercise on hot and extremely humid days, or getting them out for a walk when pavements are still scorching hot. If it hurts your hand to touch the concrete, then it’s best not to let your dog walk on it.
- Never leave your dog inside a car with no ventilation for prolonged periods, whatever the weather.
- Know your dog’s medical history. If you have an older dog or have conditions such as heart disease, obesity, or breathing problems, it’s even more imperative to keep them cool.
- Send your dogs to a boarding facility during your summer vacation. While it may be tempting to leave your dog at home and have someone come check in a few times a day, this can be downright dangerous during the summer. A boarding facility can give them lots of attention and keep them cool and safe during the hottest months.
Heatstroke in dogs can be life-threatening, and every second counts in responding to signs and symptoms. It’s important for pet owners to recognize risk factors early on and take the necessary precautions that can save their beloved dogs’ lives.