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Identification and treatment of heat stroke in dogs

Dhicon_thumb By DogHeirs Team | June 29, 2012 | Comments (2)

Identification and treatment of heatstroke in dogs
Don't leave your dog in your car! (Note: the dog in this photo is a stuffed animal)

Despite warnings every summer, people continue to leave their dogs inside vehicles in warm temperatures, or outside in the yard with no escape from the heat.

Unfortunately, people do not realize that even a few minutes inside a warm car can kill a dog. Common misconceptions are that: it is all right to leave a dog in a car if the windows or sun roof is cracked open, it will be cooler if the car is parked in the shade, leaving them with a water supply will mean they will be all right, or leaving the dog alone for 5 miinutes is acceptable.

Opening a car's windows makes little difference to the temperature inside a car. Parking in the shade or on an overcast day, or with some water, also makes little difference. And five minutes is more than long enough for a dog to succumb to heat stroke.

The same goes for leaving a dog outside on a hot day. Even if a dog has a shady spot and water, if the temperature gets too warm a dog can still suffer from heat stroke and die.

It's also important to limit a dog's activities - such as fetch and running - during hot weather to avoid the dog getting heat exhaustion.

What are the danger signs a dog is suffering from too much heat?

A dog suffering heat exhaustion and on their way towards heat stroke will display some or all of the following symptoms:dog stuck in hot car

  • rapid panting
  • bright red tongue
  • red or pale gums
  • bright red eyes
  • thick, sticky saliva
  • lethargy and weakness
  • dizzy and staggering
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • shock
  • coma


What should you do if you see a dog inside a hot car?

Let common sense be your guide.

  • If you happen to see someone about to leave their dog under warm conditions, approach them politely and tell them you think it is too hot for the dog to be left in the car. As much as you may be tempted to give them a piece of your mind, they will likely be more receptive to listening to what you say, if it's said calmly and rationally.  Explain to them it's illegal and it's dangerous and can lead to brain or organ damage and death.
  • If you are at a shopping center, alert the management so they can make an PSA announcement. 
  • If the owner doesn't come out, and the dog appears in distress, call your local non-emergency police number first and/or animal rescue (such as the SPCA).
  • If the dog appears in extreme distress or unresponsive call 911.
  • As for breaking the car window, this may be against the law in your area, and you could be formally charged by police and/or sued by the owner. 

Determining the laws can be difficult, so it helps to do a bit of research by calling your local animal control for a definitive answer as to what to do in the event you see a dog inside a car in hot weather. Although there are always extenuating circumstances that may force you to act.

If you see a dog tethered outside and suffering in the heat, authorities should also be called if the owner cannot be reached.


What to do with a dog suffering from too much heat

A heat-stricken dog can die in minutes, but immediate and proper care may save his life. If you suspect a dog is suffering from heat exhaustion, immediately remove him or her to a cool, shady area.

  • Try to slowly lower the dog's body temperature by placing in cool, not cold, water. (cold will shock their system). Use a sponge or damp cloth to apply cool water to the dog's neck and groin to lower internal temperatures.
  • Call a veterinarian immediately for further instructions and then get to a veterinarian as soon as possible.


How hot is too hot for a dog?

A dog's normal body temperature is 99.5 ºF to 102.5 ºF (37.5 ºC to 39 ºC).

At 105 ºF to 106 ºF (40.5 to 41 ºC), a dog is at risk for developing heat exhaustion. Any temperature over 105 °F / 38 °C in a car is dangerous to a dog. If their body temperature rises to 107 ºF (41.6 ºC), a dog enters the critical zone of heat stroke. With heat stroke, irreversible damage and death can occur.

Dogs that are overweight, have heart or lung diseases, or are snub nosed dogs (like bulldogs, Pekingese, Boston terriers, Lhasa apsos, Pugs, Shih Tzus, etc.) are at greater risk of overheating faster than other dogs.


How hot can it get in a car?

A study by the Animal Protection Institute showed that even moderately warm temperatures outside can quickly lead to deadly temperatures inside a closed car. It doesn't matter if it's a mild summer day or overcast, a parked vehicle quickly becomes a furnace.

In fact, the studies showed that even with four windows cracked open, temperatures inside the car still increased. The interior color of the car made more of a difference to the temperature, than whether or not the windows were left open or not.

how cars heat in sun

The chart below outlines how long it took a car exposed to sun to heat up. A car can get even hotter than the temperatures listed in this chart if the outside temperatures get warmer throughout the day, and depending on how long the car is left in the heat.

Any temperature over 105 °F / 38 °C in a car is dangerous to a dog. 

Outside Car     Inside Car          Elapsed time  
°F (°C)             °F (°C)                (time it takes to reach) 
80 (26)             99 (37)               10 min  
80 (26)            109 (43)              20 min 
80 (26)            114 (45.5)           30 min                         
80 (26)            118 (48)              40 min
80 (26)            120 (49)              50 min
80 (26)            123 (50.5)           60 min

Another study points out at 100 °F (37.7 °C) it would take less than 15 minutes for the interior of a car to reach 140 °F (60 °C)


ABC News did a segment on What Would You Do: Dog Left Inside a Hot Car.


The Kennel Club also released a video entitled Don't Cook your Dog, which warns of leaving dogs in hot cars.

Copyright 2015 DogHeirs. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments on this Article

i saw a chow being rushed inside the vet's from being left in a van. it was heartbreaking!
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