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Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs

August 15th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Dogs Pant to Cool Down

As much as we enjoy time outside with our dogs in the summer, we need to be vigilant about the possibility of potentially deadly heat stroke.  This article describes the signs of a heat stroke in dogs and offers some tips on avoiding this dangerous health hazard.

Why Are Dogs Susceptible to Heat Stroke?

Because dogs lack the ability to sweat, they may be less tolerant of high temperatures than humans.  In order to exchange warm air for cool air, dogs pant.  But according to WebMD, if the air temperature is too close to the dog’s body temperature – usually 99 to 102 degrees F in a healthy dog – the panting process will not help.

Short-face (brachycephalic) dog breeds such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Boxers and Shih Tzus are even more likely to suffer from heat exhaustion than other breeds because they have compressed air passage ways.

Top Five Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs

The most common early signs of heat stroke in dogs include:

  • Heavy panting and difficulty breathing
  • Tongue and gums appear bright red
  • Thick, heavy drool
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Vomiting

If your dog begins experiencing any of these signs of heat stroke, seek immediate emergency veterinary care.  In the meantime, quickly get your dog into a cool environment, such as in front of a fan or into air conditioning.  Apply cool, damp towels to the hairless parts of her body (stomach and paws), but avoid using ice.  According to Banfield Pet Hospital, using ice can cool your dog’s body temperature too quickly and cause other complications.

Even if your dog appears to recover from distress after you’ve applied cool compresses and gotten her into a cool environment, you should still seek veterinary care as soon as possible.  Heat stroke can lead to other serious health problems in your dog within hours or days of a heat stroke episode.  These complications include:

  • Laryngeal edema
  • Kidney failure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Seizures

Avoiding Heat Stroke in Dogs

Never Leave Your Dog in a Hot Car

The best practice is to prevent heat stroke in the first place.  Schedule walks and outdoor play time early in the morning or after sundown, when temperatures tend to be cooler.  Have plenty of water available for your dog during walks and exercise, and make sure there are shady areas so that your dog can rest.

Avoid leaving your dog outside on hot days.  Even if he has access to shade and water, he could still become overheated.

And never, ever confine your dog on a concrete or asphalt surface or leave your dog inside a car without air conditioning.  A car can become an oven very quickly on a hot day.  The Weather Channel reports that a car sitting for 10 minutes in 90 degree F weather can reach an inside temperature of about 109 degrees F after only 10 minutes.  After 20 minutes, it can reach almost 120 degrees F inside the car.

Always use caution when exposing your dog to summer’s heat.  Watch for the signs of heat stroke and take immediate action should your dog appear to be having difficulties.

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Categories: Dog Health
  1. July 3rd, 2012 at 20:46 | #1

    We here in Tennessee are experiencing record temps in the 100′s. It is so dangerous for our pets and even more so if we don’t educate ourselves about the dangers of heat over-exposure and the subsequent health problems that result. I think this information should be in or newspapers so everyone can learn from it.
    Thank you for the information and your time in getting the facts together
    Suzanne´s last [type] ..In The Company of Pets

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  7. November 10th, 2014 at 10:33 | #7

    Heat stroke is a terrible thing and despite all the advertising done by major animal care charities for literally *years* donds still get left in hot cars each summer. Here in the UK, it is apparently legal for the police to break into a car that contains a dog on a hot day so that it can be retrieved and saved. Are there similar laws in your neck of the woods?
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