Heat Stroke in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes & Prevention

During the dog days of summer, it’s essential to keep our pups safe from the heat. Today, our Memphis vets explain the symptoms of heat stroke in dogs and specify what to do if you suspect your dog is suffering from this condition. Also: tips on prevention.

What is heat stroke in dogs?

Once the summer season arrives and we head to the beach, our dogs should head into the shade. Heat stroke (heat exhaustion) is a serious danger for dogs during the hottest months, and can potentially be fatal.

Hyperthermia (fever) can set in when their body temperature is above a normal range (101.5°F). Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia when the heat dissipating mechanisms are overwhelmed by excessive heat in the dog’s body. When her body temperature rises past 104°F, she enters the danger zone. If body temperature is above 105°F, this is indicative of heat stroke.

Due to this danger, we need to keep our pooches as cool and comfortable as possible in the summer months.

Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia that occurs when a dog's heat dissipating mechanisms are overwhelmed by excessive heat. If body temperature rises above 105°F, this indicates heat stroke.

What causes heat stroke in dogs?

On hot summer days, a vehicle’s inside temperature can quickly rise to dangerous levels (even when it does not seem “that hot” to people - remember, your dog is wearing a coat). While you shop, leave your dog at home, where it’s cool and he has access to water.

Similarly, not being able to access shade and water at the beach or in a hot backyard can quickly spell trouble. Water and shade are vitally important, especially to dogs with medical conditions (such as obesity) or who are entering their senior years, as these factors may exacerbate problems.

Breed can also play a role; short-nosed, flat-faced canines tend to be more susceptible to breathing issues. Thick coats may also become uncomfortable much quicker. Every dog (even if yours loves physical activity and time outside) needs close supervision to ensure they’re logging enough shade time and getting enough water, especially on days when the mercury is rising.

What are symptoms of heat stroke?

As the warm weather descends, watch your dog closely for any of these symptoms of heat stroke, which can include:

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

What should I do if my dog is experiencing heat stroke?

Fortunately, heat stroke can be reversed if it's a mild case that’s detected early. If you notice any of the symptoms above appearing in your dog, immediately take her to a cooler place with good air circulation. If her symptoms do not improve quickly and you are not able to take your dog’s temperature, take her to a veterinarian - time is critically important here.

If you have a rectal thermometer on hand, take your dog’s temperature. If her body temperature is less than 105°F, this is an emergency - your veterinarian will need to see your dog. If her temperature is over 105°F, hose or sponge your dog’s body with cool (not cold) water, while paying special attention to her stomach. A fan may also be of use.

After a few minutes, retake her temperature until it decreases to 103°F, but do not reduce the temperature below this point as this may also cause problems. You will still need to take your dog to a vet immediately, whether you are able to reduce her temperature or not.

How can I prevent heat stroke?

Be especially cautious with how much time you allow your four-legged friend to spend outside or in the sun during the summer months. Do not expose her to heat or humidity - dog’s bodies (especially those with short faces or a lot of fur) are unable to handle it.

NEVER leave your dog in a car with closed windows, even if you park in the shade.

Make sure your pooch can easily access a full, cool water bowl and that they have lots of shade to retreat to. You may also want to invest in a specially designed seat belt for dogs or a well-ventilated dog crate.

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 that your dog may be suffering from heat stroke, this is an emergency. Call our Memphis vets immediately. We are qualified to provide emergency veterinary services. 

Heat stroke in dogs, Memphis Vet

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