Treatment of Heat Stroke in Dogs – How to Protect Your Dog

With the weather warming up it is important to remember the safety and health of our pets. One of the dangers of summer for dogs is heatstroke. It’s a term commonly used for hyperthermia or elevated body temperature.

Heatstroke can be prevented in many ways. We have some tips on how to prevent your dog from suffering from heatstroke, what signs to look for, and how to treat it.

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heat stroke in dogs

The Dangers of Heat Stroke in Dogs

Don’t underestimate the seriousness of heat stroke. It can kill and should be treated as an emergency situation. If dogs get overheated their internal organs and intestinal tracts start to break down and that can cause serious internal damage.

Unlike humans, dogs can’t sweat in the same way as their owners. Being exposed to the heat for too long can be fatal if the signs are not detected early enough. A dog’s main cooling system is in his paws and tongue so his three basic needs are a constant supply of fresh, clean drinking water, shaded areas, and cool surfaces to lie on.

High-Risk Dogs for Heat Stroke

It is important to recognize the signs of heat stroke and be aware of whether your pup is in a high-risk category. A dog will suffer heat stroke faster than other dogs if he has any kind of cardiovascular conditions, respiratory issues, or is overweight.

Dark-skinned dogs also hold and attract more heat. Short-haired breeds and those with pale skins are also particularly vulnerable to heat stroke. As are short, snub-nosed dogs like Shih Tzus or Pugs.

Dog Heat Stroke Signs

Typical symptoms of heat stroke are fairly easy to spot. You just have to keep an eye on your dog in warmer weather and look out for any of these.

  • Increased breathing. Rapid breathing and excessive panting are signs your dog’s body is starting to warm up.
  • Skin and coat warming. If your dog has warm or dry skin this is another sign they are heating up.
  • Disorientation. If your dog seems restless or appears anxious and does not pay attention to commands, these are warning signs.
  • Gum color. If his gums are pink or gray instead on a normal healthy red-pink coloration, this can be a dangerous situation.
  • Heat stroke can also cause excessive salivation, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Treatment of Heat Stroke in Dogs

If a dog appears to be suffering from the heat, you should take him to the vet as soon as possible. Initially, get him out of the sun and try to bring his temperature down with cool, not cold, water. Do not use cold or iced water as these constrict the blood vessels and won’t allow the dog’s body heat to escape. Place him in a bowl of cool water and gently rub his underbelly. Give him only a small amount of water to drink or allow him to lick ice cubes.

As soon as you can you should seek medical attention for your dog to make sure there are no serious health concerns.

Daily Dog Care in the Heat

On its website, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) states that heat stroke can kill or seriously injure a pet, but it can easily be avoided. As prevention is better than cure, here are some basic steps for daily maintenance.

Drinking Water

Make sure there is a constant supply of cool, fresh water. Top up and change the water regularly. Do not leave water bowls in the sun; place them in shaded areas. Avoid metal water dishes as they get hot.

Shaded Areas in the Yard

Provide several shaded areas for your pup to lie in. Plants and trees, covered terraces, or porches can all give adequate shade. Remember that the sun moves around during the day, so make certain there is ample shade in different parts of the yard to compensate for this. Be aware that although they do provide shade, a kennel or dog crate can heat up just as quickly as a car, so are not the solution! If shade is at a minimum you can try this great all-in-one outdoor dog bed with a canopy that will provide shade and reflect the heat.

Tethering your Dog

If a dog is tethered then ensure he has plenty of room to move around to shady areas. A dog’s leash can get wrapped around objects easily and he may be unable to move to the shade. Make sure your dog is not tied up without adequate shade.

Dogs and Swimming Pools

Never leave a dog unsupervised around a swimming pool. To avoid the chance of him drowning, train him how to get out in an emergency. Some dog owners actually use purpose-built pool steps with this in mind. Alternatively, fence off the pool or have it in a separate enclosed area to prevent a dog from roaming freely.

Walking your Dog

The best time for ‘walkies’ during the day is when the heat and humidity are lower. This is usually early morning and late afternoon. Concrete and asphalt paths can get very hot and can be painful on a dog’s paw pads, so make sure they are comfortable enough for your dog to walk on. Otherwise, walk your dog in a grassed area.

Dogs Left in Cars

The majority of heat stroke cases are caused by dogs being confined to enclosed spaces like crates, kennels or cars.

Hot cars can kill. Dogs often get locked up in cars while their owner just runs into to the shops for a “minute”. That “minute” can mean the difference between life and death for a dog.

The AVMA states that “the temperature inside your vehicle can rise almost 20º F in just 10 minutes”. Even if an owner’s car is parked in the shade with its windows partly open, the car can become an ‘oven’ in a very short space of time. When the inside temperature of a car is increasing this rapidly, a dog has no way of cooling himself.

In a recent study by Stamford University’s School of Medicine, James Quinn, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine, concluded that “much like the sun can warm a greenhouse in winter, it can also warm a parked car on cool days. In both cases, the sun heats up a mass of air trapped under glass”.

Dogs in Trucks

Don’t put a pet dog in the open back of a truck during the heat of the day, particularly if the truck’s surface is metal. It can seriously burn a dog’s feet and give off additional heat, making it hard for him to keep cool. With the sun beating down, he can easily suffer from heat stroke, especially if the truck is stationary for any amount of time.

Beat the Heat with Your Pooch!

Heatstroke occurs when heat-dissipating mechanisms of your dog’s body cannot accommodate excessive heat. Dogs with long hair and short noses are more susceptible to this condition.

Now that you know the contributing factors and symptoms of heatstroke in dogs, make sure to take the right steps to avoid this condition during the humid summer days!

Check out our other articles on how to keep your dog cool in summer:

How to Keep Dogs Cool in Summer

Best Cooling Pad for Dogs – Why You Need One and How to Choose

How to Avoid Summer’s 8 Threats to Your Dog