Although the hotter months can mean fun in the sun, it's important to know the signs of heatstroke in your beloved canine companion. Today, our Los Angeles vets share the signs of this potentially dangerous condition, and what to do if your dog has heatstroke.
What is Heatstroke?
Heatstroke (also known as prostration or hyperthermia) is an increase in core body temperature caused by environmental conditions. A dog's normal body temperature should be around 99-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If their body temperature rises above 105, immediate veterinary care is necessary.
Heatstroke in dogs should never be ignored; it's an extremely serious condition that can be fatal if not treated.
Why Do Dogs Get Heatstroke?
When human bodies overheat, we begin to sweat, which cools our bodies down as it evaporates. Dogs can't sweat; instead, our canine companions cool their bodies by panting. If panting isn't sufficient to cool themselves down, their body temperature may continue to rise, resulting in heatstroke.
Dogs of any size or breed can suffer from heatstroke, but those with thick fur, short noses, or those suffering from underlying medical conditions tend to suffer more from this condition.
Some common causes of heatstroke in dogs include:
- A dog being left in a car on a hot or sunny day
- Insufficient amount of water given to dog
- Not enough shade in pet's outdoor play area
What Are Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs?
Excessive panting is usually the initial sign of a dog suffering from heatstroke, but dog caretakers should be aware that panting isn't the only symptom of heatstroke in dogs. Other signs of heatstroke include:
- Reddened gums
- Mental dullness
- Loss of consciousness
- Uncoordinated movement
What Should I Do if I Think My Dog Has Heatstroke?
Heatstroke is a serious condition and the appearance of symptoms should always be treated as an emergency! Heatstroke in dogs can lead to life-threatening issues like abnormal blood clotting, swelling of the brain, kidney failure, and intestinal bleeding.
If you notice that your dog is displaying signs of heatstroke, head to your primary care vet or the nearest animal emergency hospital right away. While traveling to the vet's office, keep the windows open or turn the air conditioner on full power to help cool your pet.
If you are unable to get to a vet's office immediately, remove the dog from the hot environment straight away and let your pup drink as much cool water as they want without forcing them to drink. You can also help to bring your dog's body temperature down by placing a towel soaked in cool (not cold) water on them.
How Do Vets Treat Heatstroke in Dogs?
Dog heatstroke treatment begins with the veterinary team safely reducing your dog's body temperature. They may pour cool water over your dog's head, body, and feet, or apply cool wet cloths to those areas. In some cases rubbing alcohol may be applied to your dog's footpads in order to help dilate pores and increase perspiration. Treatment may also include intravenous fluids, mild sedation, and low-concentration oxygen therapy.
In addition to treating the immediate symptoms of heatstroke, your vet will also monitor your dog for secondary complications like changes in blood pressure, electrolytes abnormalities, kidney failure, development of neurologic symptoms, and abnormal clotting.
How Can I Prevent Heatstroke in My Dog?
When it comes to the wellbeing of your dog, preventing heatstroke from ever happening is key. There are some things to keep in mind, such as:
- Never leave a dog alone in a car. Even if you park in the shade and leave the windows cracked, the temperature in your car could skyrocket! Even on cooler days, the temperature inside a car can rise by as much as 40 degrees in as little as one hour.
- Know your dog's breed's level of heatstroke risk and take steps to be extra cautious with them. Dog breeds with flat or 'squished' faces (aka brachycephalic) are more likely to suffer from heatstroke than dogs with longer noses. Some at-risk breeds include bulldogs, Boston terriers, Boxers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Shih Tzus, and mastiffs.
- Dogs that are obese or those that have an underlying heart condition may be particularly sensitive to heatstroke.
- If you must leave your dog outside for long periods of time when it's hot out, be sure to provide plenty of water and shade. A small inflatable pool for a dog left outside may help, as they can cool themselves down by jumping in! Special cooling vests are also available for dogs that spend a lot of time in the heat.
- Working dogs can become very focused on their job and forget to rest. Make sure to enforce rest breaks for your working dog to allow your pup's body to cool down (even if they don't want to).
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.