Heat stroke is a serious emergency that occurs when a dog’s body temperature rises to a dangerous level. When the weather heats up in the summer months, your four-legged friend is especially at risk. So just what is heat stroke, and how can you protect your pal?
What is Heat Stroke?
A dog’s fur serves them well in the winter months by providing a cozy layer of insulation. However when warm weather rolls around, this fuzzy feature soaks up the heat. Additionally, dogs don’t sweat (except minimally through their paws), so the primary way that they cool down is through panting. When the temperature outside gets close to the temperature of your dog’s body, panting usually isn’t enough, and heat stroke can set in.
What Causes Heat Stroke?
Any situation that raises your dog’s body temperature can set them up for heat stroke. Common situations include:
- Being left in a car in hot weather
- Being confined without shade or access to water
- Being confined on hot asphalt or concrete
- Exercising in hot, humid weather
- Being a brachycephalic breed (those with short, flat muzzles), such as a Pug or Bulldog
- Having certain health conditions, including heart disease, respiratory disease, fever, seizures, or obesity
RELATED STORY:The 7 Breeds Most Likely to Become Fat Dogs
What are the Symptoms of Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke generally starts with panting and difficulty breathing. The tongue will appear bright red and the saliva will be thick. Oftentimes, a dog will vomit. As the condition progresses, the dog will become unbalanced and have bloody diarrhea. Without treatment, the lips and mucous membranes will turn gray and then the dog will collapse, suffer seizures, go into a coma, and die. RELATED STORY: The Dog Symptom Checker
What to Do About Heat Stroke
If you suspect that your dog is suffering from heat stroke, take steps to begin cooling them down right away:
- Move your dog into the shade, away from the heat, and into an air-conditioned area if possible.
- Take your dog’s temperature with a rectal thermometer. If it is above 103°F, you will need to start cooling them down with water.
- Spray your dog with cool (not cold) water from a hose or place them in a cool bathtub.
- Offer your dog cool water to drink.
- Apply an ice pack to their groin area or the top of their head.
- Do not attempt to give your dog aspirin to lower their temperature; this could result in other problems.
- Check their temperature every few minutes and continue cooling until it drops to 103°F or below. Do not continue cooling for too long or the dog could suffer from hypothermia.
Once your dog is stable, take them to the veterinarian for an examination and further treatment if necessary.
Want to learn how to keep your dog cool as a cucumber even on the hottest days? Check out our article 5 Ways to Keep Your Dog Cool in Hot Weather
Has your dog ever suffered from heat stroke? Leave a comment and tell us about it, and sign up for PetPlus, a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, vet visits, boarding, and more.