Whether you live in a hot climate year-round or enjoy it for a few months, it's crucial for every dog owner to be aware of the risks of heatstroke. The emergency veterinarians in O’Fallon want to educate you about the dangers of heatstroke in dogs and what to do if it happens.

What is heatstroke in dogs?

Heatstroke, also known as prostration or hyperthermia, is a condition that occurs when an animal's core body temperature rises due to environmental factors. Normally, a dog's body temperature ranges from 99 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature exceeds 105 degrees, it is crucial to seek immediate veterinary help. Heatstroke is a severe condition that can be fatal.

Why do dogs get heatstroke?

Human bodies are designed to sweat when we get hot, which helps us cool down. Dogs, on the other hand, are unable to sweat like humans. Instead, they cool down by panting. However, if panting is not enough to regulate their body temperature, dogs may suffer from heatstroke. 

Any breed or size of dog can get heatstroke, but certain factors can increase their risk, such as having a thick fur coat, a short nose, or underlying medical conditions.

The most common causes of heatstroke in dogs include:

  • Forgetting to provide adequate water for your pet
  • Leaving a dog in a car on a hot or sunny day
  • Lack of sufficient shade in pet's outdoor play area

How can I tell if my dog has heatstroke?

The most common sign of heatstroke in dogs is excessive panting. However, other symptoms of heatstroke in dogs that pet owners should watch out for include:

  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Reddened gums
  • Mental dullness
  • Collapse
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Loss of consciousness

What should I do if I think my dog has heatstroke?

Heatstroke is a severe condition in dogs that requires immediate attention. The symptoms can be life-threatening and may lead to abnormal blood clotting, swelling of the brain, kidney failure, and intestinal bleeding. 

If your dog is showing any signs of heatstroke, you should take them to your primary care veterinarian or the nearest emergency animal hospital in O’Fallon at once. While traveling to the vet's office, ensure that your pet stays cool by keeping the windows open or the air conditioner on full.

If you are unable to get to a veterinarian immediately, remove your dog from the hot environment and allow them to drink as much cool water as they want without forcing them. Additionally, placing a towel soaked in cool (not cold) water over them can help to bring down your dog's body temperature.

How is heatstroke in dogs treated?

Heatstroke is a serious health condition that can affect dogs, particularly during hot weather. If your dog is suffering from heatstroke, it is important to seek veterinary assistance immediately. The first step in treating heatstroke is to safely reduce your dog's body temperature. This can be done by pouring cool water over your dog's head, body, and feet, or by applying cool wet cloths to those areas. In some cases, rubbing alcohol may be applied to your dog's footpads to help dilate pores and increase perspiration.

In addition to these measures, your vet may also administer intravenous fluids, mild sedation, and low-concentration oxygen therapy to help your dog recover from heatstroke. It is also important for your vet to monitor your dog for secondary complications, such as changes in blood pressure, electrolyte abnormalities, kidney failure, the development of neurological symptoms, and abnormal clotting. By taking these steps, your vet can help your dog recover from heatstroke and prevent any further health complications

What can I do to prevent my dog from developing heat stroke?

Prevent heatstroke in dogs by following these tips to ensure your pup's health and well-being.

  • 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! Studies have shown that 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 level of heatstroke risk and take steps to be extra cautious with dogs that have an increased risk. Dog breeds with flat or 'squished' faces (aka brachycephalic) are more likely to suffer from heatstroke than dogs with longer noses. 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 susceptible 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 baby pool for a dog left outside may help, as they can cool themselves down by jumping in! Special cooling vests for dogs 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. 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.

If you suspect your dog has heatstroke, contact our O’Fallon emergency vets immediately.