How To Identify Heat Stroke in Dogs

Whether a dog is left inside a car or left outside, warm temperatures can pose a danger to any dog. Even if a dog has a shady spot and water, if the temperature gets too warm, or the dog gets overheated, he or she can still suffer from heat stroke and die.

That happened to Courtney Rogers when she took her dogs including French Bulldog, Henry, on a walk. The day had been warm, tipping at 30 degrees (86 F) so she waited until evening. She made sure to check to see the pavement was cool enough for them to walk on and brought a doggy water bottle. But despite the precautions, Henry still got in trouble.

French Bulldog. Wikipedia

“We took them on our usual walk in the evening when it had cooled down a bit, along with a bottle of water for them both to drink when they needed it. About halfway through our walk, Henry started panting, like he usually does anyway because of his breed, but it got progressively worse,” she wrote. “After having large drinks from his water, the panting only got worse, to the point were his chest was rattling, and he was plonking himself down in any shade he could find, refusing to move.”

She rushed him to the vet but despite every attempt to save his life, a few hours later Henry was dead, overwhelmed by the heat. She shared her story in the hopes of saving other dogs’ lives.

Warm weather put a strain on a dog’s ability to regulate their internal temperature. As result, dogs can get heat exhaustion quickly, especially if walking or running.

So 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:

  • 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 to do with a dog suffering from too much heat?

A heat-stricken dog can die in a matter of minutes, but immediate and proper care may save his life. If you suspect a dog is suffering from heat exhaustion:

  • Immediately move him or her to a cool, shady area. Get them out of direct sunlight and into an air-conditioned space and if none is around, into a cool, shady area.
  • Offer them water only if they are able to drink it. Don’t give them an unlimited supply of water (e.g. hose, river). Instead give them a little bit at a time. Ice cubes are good for this.
  • Try to slowly lower the dog’s body temperature by placing him/her in cool, not cold, water. (cold or freezing water will shock their system).
  • Use a sponge or damp cloth to apply cool water to the dog’s neck, head and groin to lower internal temperatures.
  • Call a veterinarian immediately for further instructions and then get the dog 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. 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.

Bordeaux dogge. Wikipedia

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.

Remember, prevention is key.

Dogs can succumb to heat stroke very quickly in warm and humid weather because the only way dogs release heat is by panting and sweating through the foot pads and nose.

Avoid vigorous exercise on hot days, keep your dog hydrated and do not leave him/her alone outside or in a warm space (e.g. a car). There are a few devices such as cooling mats and cooling vests to help keep your dog’s body temperature lower, but these should never be substituted for common sense.

It’s best to avoid too much activity on very hot days and ensure your dog is comfortable and has access to water at all times.

Please be more cautious in hot weather, even if you think it’s cooled down and have a happy and safe summer.

If you would like to read other tips for keeping your dogs safe in the summer read our article 7 Tips to Remember When Taking Your Dog Out for Summer.

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