As the temperatures rise and the days become warmer, it's important to be aware of the hidden danger that can put our furry companions at risk of heatstroke. With the arrival of the hot weather, dogs become more susceptible to this life-threatening condition. 

Exploring the causes, signs, and preventive measures will help keep our dogs safe and cool during hot weather. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Heatstroke in dogs is life-threatening when their bodies struggle to cool down in hot temperatures.
  • When a dog's body temperature rises above 105°F, it can lead to organ problems and illness.
  • Heatstroke should be promptly diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian, with cooling measures and supportive care provided.

What is Heatstroke in Dogs? 

Heatstroke in dogs occurs when their body temperature rises above the typical range of 101.5°F and reaches dangerous levels exceeding 105°F.

This condition can arise because dogs have a limited ability to regulate their body temperature through sweating. While they can release some heat through their paws, it's not enough to maintain a stable temperature. Their main cooling method is panting, but in extreme heat, this may be insufficient.

Elevated temperatures can harm their organs and lead to severe health issues. In the worst cases, heatstroke can be life-threatening and result in organ failure. All dogs are at risk, making it crucial for owners to be proactive in preventing it.

Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs 

Heatstroke can manifest in dogs through various symptoms, indicating distress and the urgent need for intervention. Here are early warning signs of heat stroke to watch out for:

If you suspect your dog is experiencing heatstroke, it is crucial to promptly visit your veterinarian while taking steps to cool them down. 

Hassle-free In-Home Pet Sick Visits

When your pet isn't feeling well, the last thing you want is a stressful trip to the vet. Our in-home sick pet visits offer a calm, stress-free alternative.

Causes of Heatstroke in Dogs 

Heatstroke in dogs can be caused by exposure to high temperatures, specific breed traits, age, underlying health issues, and past heat-related incidents. Here's a a breakdown of each possible reason for heatstroke:

  • Leaving a dog in a parked car: Leaving a dog unattended in a parked car, even on a mildly warm day, can quickly create a dangerous situation due to the rising temperatures inside the vehicle.
  • Exercising a dog on a hot and humid day: Even short walks or moderate exercise can lead to heatstroke. 
  • Inadequate water, shade, or rest: Insufficient hydration, shade, or rest increases heatstroke risk.
  • Physical characteristics: Flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds and larger dogs with thick fur have higher susceptibility.
  • Age: Puppies and senior dogs are more prone to heatstroke.
  • Body weight: Overweight or obese dogs have an increased heatstroke risk.
  • Underlying medical conditions: Hypothyroidism, heart disease, and laryngeal paralysis contribute to heatstroke.
  • History of heatstroke: Dogs who have previously experienced heatstroke are at a higher risk of having a second episode.

How is Heatstroke Diagnosed in Dogs? 

Veterinarians typically diagnose heatstroke by observing clinical signs, conducting a physical examination, and considering the dog's history of exposure to high temperatures. 

The veterinarian will check the dog's body temperature, which is often notably high during heatstroke. They will also evaluate other vital signs, like heart and respiratory rates while looking for organ dysfunction indications.

Additional diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, including complete blood count, serum blood chemistry, and urinalysis, may be performed in certain cases. These tests help assess organ function and electrolyte levels and aid in ruling out other potential causes for the dog's symptoms. 

Heatstroke Treatment for Dogs 

When a dog is exhibiting signs of heatstroke, immediate medical attention is crucial. Here's a few ways to cool your dog down if you suspect they are suffering from this life-threatening condition:

  • Recognize Signs: Watch for excessive panting, weakness, and collapse.
  • Check Rectal Temperature: Use a rectal thermometer. If it's less than 105°F, it's an emergency; go to the vet immediately.
  • Move to a Cool Area: Ensure your dog is in a shaded or well-ventilated place.
  • Cool Down: Use cool water to spray or sponge your dog's tummy and inner thighs, aiming to reduce but not drop below 103°F.
  • Seek Veterinary Help: A vet will provide necessary treatments, including fluids and medication.

Preventing Dog Heatstroke 

To ensure your dog remains safe and avoids the risk of heatstroke, proactive measures are essential. Here are some preventive steps:

  • Mindful Exercise Timing: Schedule play or training sessions during cooler times, like early mornings or late evenings, especially for heat-sensitive dogs.
  • Provide Shade and Water: Ensure your dog has access to shaded resting spots and fresh water during outdoor activities.
  • Avoid Leaving Dogs in Cars: Never leave your dog in a car, even briefly, as temperatures can soar rapidly.
  • Cool Indoor Environment: For dogs with health conditions, maintain a comfortable, cool indoor space.

For specific concerns or guidance tailored to your dog, always consult with a veterinarian.

Should My Pet Be Seen by a Veterinarian?

Should My Pet Be Seen by a Veterinarian?
1. Have you noticed changes in your pet’s appetite?
2. Does your pet have diarrhea or loose stools?
3. Have you noticed changes in your pet’s thirst/water consumption?
4. Is your pet having accidents in the house?
5. Is your pet pacing and unable to settle?
6. Is your pet panting more than usual?
7. Is your pet whining or vocalizing more than usual?
8. Is your pet shaking more than usual?
9. Is your pet hiding or avoiding physical contact more than usual?
10. Is your pet more lethargic and sleeping more than usual?
11. Are you concerned about changes in your pet’s behavior?
12. Is your pet scratching their ears?
13. Is your pet licking their paws more than usual?
14. Does your pet have a rash?
15. Is your pet moving more slowly than usual or having a harder time getting up or down?

Should My Pet Be Seen by a Veterinarian?

1. Have you noticed changes in your pet’s appetite?
2. Does your pet have diarrhea or loose stools?
3. Have you noticed changes in your pet’s thirst/water consumption?
4. Is your pet having accidents in the house?
5. Is your pet pacing and unable to settle?
6. Is your pet panting more than usual?
7. Is your pet whining or vocalizing more than usual?
8. Is your pet shaking more than usual?
9. Is your pet hiding or avoiding physical contact more than usual?
10. Is your pet more lethargic and sleeping more than usual?
11. Are you concerned about changes in your pet’s behavior?
12. Is your pet scratching their ears?
13. Is your pet licking their paws more than usual?
14. Does your pet have a rash?
15. Is your pet moving more slowly than usual or having a harder time getting up or down?

Share Quiz

Conclusion

Hot weather doesn't have to threaten your dog's well-being. By taking a proactive approach, you can protect them from the dangers of heatstroke. With intelligent exercise scheduling, providing ample shade and hydration, and never leaving them in a hot car, you become their superhero in the summer heat. Let's embrace the sunshine while keeping our furry companions safe and happy!

Related reading: Summer Pet Safety Tips From a Veterinarian

Frequently Asked Questions

How hot is too hot for dogs?

Temperatures 105°F and above can be considered potentially dangerous for dogs. If you observe signs of heat distress, seek veterinary attention to ensure your dog's safety and well-being.

What's the difference between heatstroke heat exhaustion in dogs?

Heat exhaustion in dogs is an early overheating sign with symptoms like fatigue, but if untreated and exposure continues, it can advance to heatstroke, a severe condition with potential for organ failure and death.

What breed of dogs gets heatstroke?

Certain breeds, such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Boxers, and other brachycephalic breeds, are more susceptible due to their difficulty regulating body temperature. Double-coated dogs like Golden Retrievers and Siberian Huskies may also be at higher risk. 

How long do heatstroke symptoms last?

Generally, once a dog receives prompt veterinary care and appropriate treatment, the initial signs of heatstroke can improve within a few hours. However, it's important to note that the recovery process may take several days for more severe cases.

When should I be concerned about my dog's heatstroke?

You should be concerned about your dog's heatstroke if they show signs like excessive panting, drooling, weakness, vomiting, or collapse. Seek immediate veterinary attention if their body temperature exceeds 105°F.