heat stroke in dogs

Heat stroke! What is it? Can it be prevented?

heat stroke in dogs

Memorial Day is here! The unofficial start to summer, with its warmer weather and outdoor activities.  While we humans are having fun, we want to have fun with our dogs too.  But they have some physical differences that are important to pay attention to.

Can dogs cool themselves off?

Dogs don’t sweat, except through the pads of their paws. They pant, which helps them cool off with evaporation, but only does so much. They can change or limit behavior to try to cool down, but they run into difficulties.

Dogs at risk:

– Brachycephalic (short nosed) breeds like pugs or french bulldogs
– Darker colored dogs (since black absorbs heat)
– Heavily muscled dogs (since muscle produces extra heat)
– Very young or very old dogs
– Dogs with other pre-existing health issues
– Very high drive dogs that don’t self limit

What is Heat Stroke?

If you watch the news or are on social media, you’ve most likely heard of heat stroke.  But maybe you don’t know exactly what it is and when you might be seeing it. Heat stroke, a form of hyperthermia, happens pretty often to dogs since they don’t cool themselves as well as humans do.  A dog’s normal temp is between 101 and 102.5. Heat stroke can lead to temps of 106 or even higher!  Temperatures that high can lead to acute (sudden) renal failure, rapid or irregular heart rates, liver damage and seizures, to name a few issues.  This is an extremely dangerous condition and failure to act can lead to death.

Signs of heatstroke include:

– Panting
– Less responsive
– Drooling
– Dark red gums
– Confusion and/or anxiety
– Glazed eyes
– Rapid heart rate
– Labored breathing
– Temperature above 103
– Vomiting or diarrhea, possibly with blood in them

If you see these symptoms, you need to try to cool your dog off a.s.a.p.!  What you can do:

– Get them out of the heat
– Let them stand or lay in cool water and bath them in it
– Encourage them drink cool (not ice cold) water

If these steps don’t get your dog to normal quickly, or if you see seizures, vomiting, diarrhea or minimal consciousness, you need the vet’s help as quickly as possible. Organ damage starts in and makes rescue much more difficult.

How do you prevent it?

Heat stroke can be prevented if you are prepared. All dogs have the potential to suffer from heat stroke, so it’s a good idea to be aware of the weather and risk factors.  If your dog is especially prone to overheating, this becomes vital.

To make sure your outing doesn’t turn into a tragedy:

– Plan extreme activity for cooler times of the day
– Offer plenty of water
– Limit activity to shorter periods of time
– Provide a kiddie pool or other water for cooling off
– Use cooling mats, cooling coats, etc. to keep body temperature at a healthy level

Summertime is ideal for fun times outside.  With a little planning, it can be great for dog activities too. It pays to be aware.

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