Heatstroke in dogs is very serious and can even be fatal. In this article we will discuss what is Heatstroke and what are the causes and symptoms you should look out for to be prepared to care for your pooch during the warmer months. 

Dogs regulate their body heat mainly by panting. They cannot regulate their body temperature through sweating as they only produce sweat in areas not covered by fur, such as their paw pads and nose. Panting enables the blood to cool down as cold air passes over the blood vessels in the mouth. However, if the surrounding air temperature is too high this method will not be effective, and if a dog’s body temperature rises above 42°C Heatstroke can lead to death.

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Causes of heat stroke

Overheating during exercise
The duration and intensity of exercise for pets should always be gradually built over time. However, during warmer months it is essential you pay close attention to your pooch for any signs of Heatstroke, and provide lots of water and rest periods during exercise.

Extended periods outside in hot weather
During warm weather days your dog will be progressively warming up if left outside, they are covered in fur after all. As a rule dogs should never be left outside for extended periods, without access to shaded cool areas and drinking water.

Being trapped in a hot car or other enclosed space
You should never leave your dog in a car for extended periods of time. Even on days that you may not find particularly warm, a dog’s normal body temperature is around 38.6°C and it can take as little as 15 minutes for a dog to die of heat-related illness if left trapped in a hot enclosed space. In many countries, it is a criminal offence to leave a dog in a hot car. If you find a dog trapped in a car try to contact the owner first, and then call the police.

Symptoms of heatstroke 

Early signs of heat stress may be subtle, but it’s important to know the warning signs to look out for:

  • Faster or heavier panting 
  • Excessive drooling
  • Increased heart rate
  • Bright red gums (dry when touched)
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness or fainting

Heatstroke first aid

If a dog shows symptoms of heatstroke it is important to act quickly.

  1. Keep the dog calm and move them to a cool/shaded area. 
  2. Give them a drink of cool but not icy water.
  3. Contact your veterinarian.
  4. Cold wet towels can be placed on the stomach, armpits, and pads. 
  5. Cool their head, ears, feet, and fur using cool water and a bucket or sponge. However, do not submerge the dog’s head in water to prevent aspiration pneumonia.
  6. Never give anti-inflammatory medication to a dog with Heatstroke as this can cause harm.

If your dog has a mild Heatstroke they are likely to make a full recovery. However, if they become seriously unwell, or their treatment is delayed, they could suffer organ damage or even die. Contact your vet as soon as you notice symptoms of heatstroke. The faster treatment is started, the better your dog’s outlook.

Dogs that are particularly at risk of Heatstroke 

Some dogs are particularly susceptible to Heatstroke, such as short-nosed (brachycephalic) dogs (due to their very narrow respiratory tracts), young puppies, overweight dogs, and those with thick fur, heart disease, or respiratory problems. 

Preventing Heatstroke

Dog walking outdoors
Photo by Sandra Seitamaa on Unsplash

Even during the warmer months, it’s important that your dog maintains a regular exercise regime, both for their physical wellbeing as overweight dogs find it more difficult to cool themselves down, as well as their mental wellbeing and happiness. 

With our busy lives, it can often be difficult to fit a daily walk into our schedule. To ensure your pooch gets daily outdoor time, why not search for a loving dog walker on Gudog who will care for your pooch like their own pet. You can find great local dog walkers with flexible schedules to avoid walking your dog during the hottest part of the day, who will provide the right amount of exercise tailored for your dog, and who will ensure your pet always has access to shade and water.

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