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Heatstroke in Dogs

Heatstroke in Dogs

While heatstroke can happen at any time, your dog is more susceptible during the warmer months of the year and it's important to know the signs. Here, our Novato vets share some of the signs and symptoms of heatstroke in dogs, what to do and how you can prevent it.

What is heatstroke in dogs?

Heat stroke or heat exhaustion is a condition that most often occurs during the summertime. Unfortunately, the complications from this condition can be fatal if not treated quickly. When a dog’s body temperature is elevated above a normal range (101.5°F), hyperthermia (fever) can occur.

Heatstroke is a form of hyperthermia. It happens when the heat-dissipating mechanisms in your dog’s body are overwhelmed by excessive heat. When your pup's body temperature rises past 104°F, they enter the danger zone. If body temperature is above 105°F, this indicates heatstroke.

This makes keeping our dogs cool and comfortable during the warmer months very important.

Causes of Heatstroke in Dogs

On summer days, a vehicle's temperature can quickly exceed dangerous levels (even when the inside of our vehicle does not seem “that hot” to us, remember that your dog has a fur coat on). Leave the dog at home while you shop.

A lack of access to water and shade in your backyard or at the beach can also spell trouble. Shade and water are vital on warm weather days, especially for dogs with medical conditions such as obesity, and senior dogs.

Your dog's breed could also be a contributing factor when it comes to heatstroke; flat-faced, short-nosed pups tend to be more vulnerable to breathing issues. As you might imagine, thick coats quickly become uncomfortable. Each dog (even ones who love spending time outside engaging in activities) requires close supervision, especially on days when the mercury is rising.

What are the heatstroke symptoms in dogs?

The symptoms of heatstroke in dogs can include any combination of the following symptoms:

  • Mental “dullness” or flatness
  • Red gums
  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling
  • Signs of discomfort
  • Unable or unwilling to move (or uncoordinated movement)
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Collapsing or loss of consciousness

If you notice any of the above heatstroke in dogs symptoms, please reach out to your vet right away.

What To Do If You See the Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs

If you begin the spot any of the dog heatroke symptoms you should act quickly and move your dog to a cooler location. If symptoms do not improve quickly and you are not able to take your dog’s temperature, contact your vet immediately for advice. 

If possible, use a rectal thermometer to take your dog's temperature. If their temperature is above 104°F, this qualifies as an emergency and your dog will need to see a vet. If this temperature is above 105°F, immediately hose or sponge your dog’s body with cool (not cold) water. Pay special attention to their stomach. A fan may also be useful. Contact your vet or your nearest emergency vet for further instructions.

The complications from heatstroke are very serious and you should contact your vet as soon as you spot the symptoms.

Ways You Can Help Prevent Your Dog From Experiencing the Symptoms of Heatstroke

You should be mindful about the time that your beloved pup spends outdoors during the day in the hotter months. Dogs are not equipped for the hot weather (especially those with short faces).

Under no circumstances should you ever leave your dog in the car, not even in the shade or if it's cloudy. Provide your pooch with lots of shade to retreat to and easy access to cool water. A well-ventilated dog crate or specially designed seat belt for dogs may also work well.

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.

Symptoms of heatstroke in dogs should never be ignored! If you notice any of the signs listed above, please contact our Novato vets or your nearest 24/7 emergency animal hospital.

New Patients Welcome

Bel Marin Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Novato companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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