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Heatstroke in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Heatstroke in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Prevention

In this post, our Scottsdale vets explain how heatstroke in dogs occurs. We also list symptoms to watch for actions to take if you think your dog may be suffering from this serious condition. Plus: tips for prevention.

What is heatstroke in dogs?

As the sun beats down during the dog days of summer, heatstroke (also referred to as heat exhaustion) is a serious — and even potentially fatal — danger for dogs. When a dog's body temperature rises above a normal range (101.5°F), hyperthermia (fever) can occur. 

Heatstroke is a type of hyperthermia. This happens when the heat-dissipating mechanisms in a dog's body become overwhelmed by excessive heat. When his body temperature rises past 104°F, he enters the danger zone. If body temperature reaches above 105°F, this is indicative of heatstroke. 

That's why we need to help our dogs stay as cool and comfortable as possible during the summer months. 

Causes of Heatstroke in Dogs

On hot summer days, a vehicle's temperature can quickly exceed dangerous levels (even when it doesn't seem "that hot" in your vehicle, remember that your dog has a fur coat to contend with). Leave the dog at home while you shop. 

If your dog does not have enough shade and water at the beach or in your backyard, this can quickly spell trouble. Shade and water are key to staying cool on those warm weather days, especially for senior dogs or those with medical conditions such as obesity. 

Depending on your dog's breed, they may be more susceptible to heatstroke; short-nosed, flat-faced pooches tend to have breathing issues. As you might imagine, thick coats can quickly become uncomfortable. Even if your dog loves spending time outside playing, they should be closely supervised, especially on the hot, hazy days of mid-summer. 

Heatstroke Symptoms in Dogs

Signs of heatstroke in dogs can be subtle or obvious, so owners need to be on the lookout during spring and summer. Watch your dog carefully and take action right away if you notice any combination of these symptoms:

  • Signs of discomfort
  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Unable or unwilling to move (or uncoordinated movement) 
  • Red gums 
  • Mental flatness or "dullness"
  • Collapsing or loss of consciousness. 

If you notice your pup is displaying any of the above symptoms of heatstroke, it's time to take action. 

What to Do Next if Your Dog is Showing Signs of Heatstroke

Fortunately, heatstroke in dogs can be reversed if detected early. If you notice your pup displaying any symptoms listed above, immediately take them to a cooler place with good air circulation. If symptoms do not improve quickly and you are not able to take your dog’s temperature, contact your vet immediately for advice. 

Take your dog’s temperature if you have access to a rectal thermometer. If their temperature is above 104°F, this qualifies as an emergency and your dog will need to see a vet. If this temperature is above 105°F, immediately hose or sponge your dog’s body with cool (not cold) water. Pay special attention to their stomach. A fan may also be useful. Contact your vet or your nearest emergency vet for further instructions.

Heatstroke is a very serious condition. Take your dog to a vet right away whether you are able to reduce their temperature or not.

How to Help Prevent Your Dog From Getting Heatstroke

To help prevent your pooch from getting heatstroke be very cautious about how much time your dog spends outside or in the sun during the summer. Do not expose your dog to heat and humidity - their bodies (especially those with short faces) are unable to handle it.

NEVER leave your dog in a car with closed windows - even if you park in the shade. Provide your pooch with lots of shade to retreat to and easy access to cool water. A well-ventilated dog crate or specially designed seat belt for dogs may also work well.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. If you are concerned about your pet's health, contact your veterinarian right away for diagnosis and treatment.

Never ignore signs of heatstroke in dogs. If your dog is showing symptoms of heatstroke,  contact our Scottsdale Ranch Animal Hospital veterinary team right away, or take your pet to the nearest 24/7 emergency animal clinic for urgent care. 

Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Book Online (480) 391-3699