Do you really know why heat stroke is so bad for dogs?
Warmer temps make it more inviting to have some outdoor fun, like going to parks, hitting the beach, exploring hiking trails, and more.
Although it’s great to head out for some fresh air, a change of scenery, and fun in the sun, especially after being stuck at home during the pandemic, remember that hotter temperatures are not exactly the best thing for our four-legged family members.
The hotter, humid weather causes overheating issues in many visitors, newbies, and long-time Hawaii residents, and our dogs are no different.
As a dog mom, pet business owner, and pet first aid instructor, I am incredibly passionate about educating pet parents, pet industry professionals, and pet lovers about the harmful effects heatstroke have on dogs.
I am tired and sickened to read or hear the countless stories of dogs suffering and dying from such a preventable situation.
In this post, you will learn how to identify the difference between heat exhaustion and heatstroke, the absolute truth about what a dog experiences when suffering from heat stroke, the signs of heatstroke in dogs, how to help a dog suffering from heat stroke, and how to prevent heatstroke for your pet.
This blog is about heatstroke in dogs.
How to Identify Heatstroke in Dogs
Heat Exhaustion vs Heatstroke in Dogs.
You may have heard about heat exhaustion and heat stroke when discussing hot weather hazards or summer safety for pets, but is there a difference? Actually, there is.
“Heat Exhaustion” is a milder form of heat stroke and often will be the warning many dog parents overlook because they don’t know much about it or what to look for.
Dogs suffering from heat exhaustion often do not have a dangerously elevated body temperature, have control of their muscles, have normal body functions, look for water to cool down, and take frequent breaks due to feeling hot.
“Heat Stroke” (also known as Hyperthermia) is a severe heat hazard, and immediate action needs to be taken to cool down the dog and get emergency veterinary help to avoid internal organ damage and/or death due to the dog overheating.
Dogs suffering from heat stroke often have dangerously elevated body temperatures (over 103°F) and, if ignored or left untreated, can have fatal consequences.
Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs.
Recognizing Hyperthermia (Heat Stroke) is crucial for any dog parent.
A dog experiencing distress from heat stroke is a pet medical emergency as irreversible damage to a dog’s internal organs, and death can happen quickly.
If you notice your dog showing any signs of heatstroke, STOP WHATEVER YOU’RE DOING, and take immediate action to help your dog before it’s too late.
Dog heatstroke symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Body temperature over 103°F
- Excessive panting
- Exaggerated long tongue
- Moist body tissues
- Foaming at the mouth
- Bright red gums
- Irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle tremors
- Bloody or black tarry stools
- Vomiting blood
- Diarrhea or Bloody diarrhea
- Small pinpoints of blood on the body
- Loss of consciousness
- Respiratory and/or cardiac arrest
Stages of Heatstroke in Dogs. (Warning Graphic Photos Posted in This Section)
There are countless heat stroke news warnings, blogs, and social media postings dedicated to the dangers of heatstroke in dogs and why heatstroke is bad for our dogs to be found.
However, what is never discussed is what a dog goes through when experiencing heatstroke, which makes this heat hazard so dangerous for pets.
Sit back and get ready, I’m about to break down the ugly truth for you, and I’m not going to sugarcoat it either.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
A dog will have a body temperature above 103°F and will be panting heavily.
A dog will display anxious behavior because they are uncomfortable being so hot and their body overheating.
The dog’s rapid heart rate will increase their blood flow to eliminate heat from their body and the increased heart rate will also cause a dog’s blood pressure to drop.
As the dog’s blood pressure drops, its blood circulation will decrease, and the natural mechanism of a dog’s body used to expel heat will fail.
A dog’s body temperature increases, reaching dangerous levels due to no way of getting rid of the excessive heat.
At this time, a dog’s body begins to shut down.
When a dog’s body temperature reaches above 107°F, its internal organs start to fail due to the lack of blood and oxygen in their tissues.
A dog loses control of its muscles, kidneys stop functioning, the brain suffers severe damage, blood spills out of the rectum, and the heart stops beating.
Finally, the dog fatally succumbs to heatstroke and has internally cooked to death.
When symptoms of heatstroke in dogs are ignored, or no immediate action is taken to help a dog suffering from heatstroke, a dog will suffer irreversible internal organ damage and/or die within approximately 15 minutes or less.
How Do You Help a Dog With Heatstroke.
I cannot stress this enough, heatstroke is a serious pet medical emergency, and jumping into immediate action to help your dog can mean the difference between saving your dog’s life or losing them forever.
Steps to help your dog suffering from heatstroke:
- Immediately get your pet into the shade or an area with air conditioning.
– If in the shade, place a fan near your dog to help cool them off.
- Take your dog’s temperature, with a digital thermometer either rectally or under their arm with a Mella Pet Care Smart Underarm Pet Digital Thermometer. (Use shop code Bertha10 to save on your online purchase)
-If your pet’s temperature is 104°F or above, immediately begin administering pet first aid cooling techniques.
-Continue to take your dog’s temperature every 30-60 seconds until your pet’s body temperature returns to normal ranges or you have arrived at a vet clinic or emergency veterinary hospital.
-Make a note of the time your dog’s body temperature begins to drop and what time your dog’s body temperature reaches the normal range to advise the vet staff.
- Note any signs or symptoms your dog is experiencing and what time you started pet first aid cooling techniques.
Wet or soak your dog’s paws with cool (not cold or ice) water.
If available, place a cool, wet towel underneath your pet to lay on.
-You can also place cool, wet washcloths on your dog’s abdomen and/or under their armpits, but make sure you remove them frequently to avoid trapping heat in these areas of the body.
Offer small amounts of cool water to drink every few minutes, or lightly wet your dog’s tongue.
Immediately get your dog to their vet or the nearest emergency vet hospital.
What Not to Do With a Dog Having Heatstroke.
Never use ice, ice water, or an ice bath to try to cool a dog down.
-This will cause the blood vessels in your dog’s skin to constrict and prevent the normal cooling mechanisms of your dog’s body from working correctly.
-Extreme cold from ice or frozen products used in efforts to quickly cool a dog off can send a dog’s body into shock, creating additional life-threatening issues.
Do not forcefully pour water into the dog’s mouth, making them ingest water.
Do not try to cool your dog off too fast or too long, as overcooling is dangerous and will lead to additional medical issues.
Do not administer pet first aid cooling techniques if your pet is vomiting, having diarrhea, has small pinpoints of blood or bruising on their abdomen or ears, has collapsed, is unresponsive, or experiencing seizures.
-Priority is to get the dog to the vet as soon as possible to avoid delaying life-saving veterinary medical treatment.
Dogs Most Likely at Risk of Heatstroke.
It’s important to understand that ALL DOGS are at risk for heatstroke; however, some factors can make a dog more susceptible than others.
Young puppies and senior dogs are at a higher risk of developing heatstroke because they have a decreased ability to regulate their body temperature.
Overweight or obese dogs are at a higher risk due to the increased fat cell insulation and heat their body generates during exercise.
Brachycephalic Dog Breeds
Brachycephalic (Flat Faced) dog breeds are at a higher risk due to the shorter structure of their respiratory system.
Health Issues and Medical Conditions
Dogs with specific health issues and medical conditions like collapsing trachea, laryngeal paralysis, Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome, some heart conditions, Myasthenia Gravis, and Addison’s Disease are at a higher risk for developing heatstroke.
Dogs with thicker heat insulating or dark-colored coats are at a higher risk for developing heatstroke.
History of Previous Heatstroke
A dog with a history of heatstroke is at a higher risk for developing heatstroke because part of the brain (the Hypothalamus) has changed.
The Hypothalamus helps regulates body temperature and often sustains injury due to heatstroke, compromising the ability of a dog to regulate its body temperature naturally.
How to Prevent Heatstroke in Dogs.
As always, prevention is key!
Dogs outdoors on hot and humid days for an extended time should have access to shade for breaks and plenty of cool, fresh water to drink.
Be sure dogs have access to areas that protect them from hot asphalt or heat-reflecting surfaces.
Walk and let your dog play during the early morning before the sun is at its peak or late in the afternoon/early evening when the sun is less intense.
Provide plenty of breaks, cool, fresh water to drink, and never push your dog past its physical limit.
When taking your dog out to the park, on hikes, walks, runs, to the beach, running errands, pet-friendly events, or car rides, take the necessary supplies in case your dog experiences any heat-related issues and you need to render help.
Dogs can experience heat exhaustion and develop heatstroke quickly.
As a responsible dog parent, it’s essential to be prepared and ready to jump into action to prevent these heat-related illnesses from becoming tragedies.