Dog heat stroke can strike in minutes on hot, humid days, and may prove fatal if it’s not treated promptly.
The good news is that it’s preventable and I’ve listed below the symptoms of heat stroke, how to treat and prevent it, and the dogs most likely to suffer from heatstroke.
What is Dog Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke occurs when your dog is no longer able to maintain his normal body temperature of approximately 101F and it rises to 105F and above.
At temperatures above 106F your dog’s internal organs will start to breakdown, and if he’s not cooled quickly enough, he will die. Even if you can bring his temperature down, he may well have suffered irreversible internal damage.
Dog’s regulate their temperature primarily through panting – on hot, humid days they are unable to cool their bodies effectively, and as a result their body temperature rises rapidly.
If your dog’s temperature exceeds 106F, you only have minutes to save his life.
Signs & Symptoms of Heat Stroke
If your dog has heat stroke he will progressively show these signs:
- Excessive panting;
- Pale gums, bright red tongue;
- Disorientation and your dog doesn’t respond to his name;
- Increased heart rate;
- Thick saliva;
- Breathing difficulties;
Heat stroke often occurs because a dog is confined, either in a car, kennel or crate; the first thing to do is remove your dog from where he was confined.
Make sure your dog is out of the sun and has access to water but don’t let him drink too much.
Cool him with cool/tepid water – either immerse him in a bath, gently hose him or apply cool towels to his body. Importantly do not leave wet towels on your dog and do not use very cold water – both prevent your dog form being able to cool himself.
Move your dog to an area where there is cool air circulating, such as an air conditioned room or stand him in front of a fan. The cool circulating air will help your dog to reduce his temperature.
Keep monitoring your dog’s temperature with a rectal thermometer; once it returns to normal stop the cooling process.
Whilst you are cooling your dog down phone your local emergency dog clinic, explain the situation and perform any additional treatment they suggest before taking him to the clinic.
Even if you manage to reduce your dog’s temperature at home, take him to your vet for a thorough checkup – internal damage to your dog’s organs might have taken place even though he recovered from heat stroke.
Dogs Prone to Heatstroke
- Young puppies and older dogs;
- Overweight dogs;
- Dogs with an existing illness or recovering from illness or surgery;
- Dog breeds with short faces – Bulldogs, Shar pei, Boston Terriers, Pugs – have narrow respiratory systems that easily get overwhelmed in hot and humid conditions;
- Double coated breeds such as Chow Chows; and
- Dogs bred for cold climates such as Malamutes, Huskies and Newfoundlands.
Preventing Heat Stroke
- The best heat stroke prevention is staying cool on hot days. Be aware that the outside temperature can be a lot warmer than that shown on your thermometer -on humid days the relative temperature is much higher;
- Dogs really don’t know when to stop – try and keep your dog’s activity to a minimum particularly on hot and humid days;
- Exercise your dog early in the morning and/or later in the evening when the temperature is cooler;
- If possible keep your dog indoors during the heat of the day in a well ventilated or air conditioned room; and
- If your dog is outside during the day, make sure there is plenty of shady areas for him to lie in and he has access to cold water. If he likes water, put a paddling pool of water for him in a shady part of the garden so he can lie in that to keep cool, otherwise periodically spray him with cool water.