How to Tell if Your Dog Has Heat Stroke

Heat stroke can be very dangerous for your dog. Today, our Ventura vets describe the condition and its symptoms. We also give actionable tips on what to do if you think your dog might be suffering from it, and provide advice on how to prevent it in the first place. 

What is heat stroke in dogs?

Heat stroke is a serious - and sometimes even fatal - danger for dogs once warm weather arrives. This condition is also sometimes referred to as heat exhaustion or hyperthermia (fever). It can set in when a dog’s body temperature rises above a normal range (101.5°F).

When body temperature rises past 104°F, he or she enters the danger zone. If her body temperature is above 105°F, this officially indicates heat stroke. Excessive heat overwhelms your dog’s heat dissipating mechanisms in his or her body.

To prevent it, we need to make sure our dogs are as cool and comfortable at all times, and most especially once the calendar turns to warmer months.

What causes heat stroke in dogs?

Heat stroke can be caused by situational factors, such as a hot vehicle on a summer’s day (which can quickly rise to dangerous temperatures, even when it does not seem “that hot” to us) or a lack of access to shade or water at the beach.

What are symptoms of heat stroke?

During the spring and summer, watch your dog closely for symptoms of heat stroke, including:

  • Red gums
  • Excessive panting
  • Mental flatness or “dullness”
  • Drooling
  • Unwilling or unable to move (or uncoordinated movement)
  • Signs of discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Collapsing or loss of consciousness

What should I do if my dog is suffering from heat stroke?

If detected early, heat stroke in dogs can be reversed. If you notice that your pooch is exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, take him to a cooler place with better air circulation immediately.

If symptoms do not quickly improve and you are unable to take your dog’s temperature, get your dog to emergency care immediately.

If you have access to a rectal thermometer, take your dog’s temperature. If her temperature is less than 105°F, this is considered an emergency and your dog needs to see a vet.

If her temperature is above 105°F, sponge or hose your dog’s body with cool (not cold) water, paying special attention to her stomach. You may also want to use a fan if one is available.

After a few minutes, take her temperature again until it lowers to 103°F. Do not reduce the temperature below 103°F, as this can also lead to potential issues. Whether you are successful in reducing her temperature or not, take your dog to a veterinarian immediately.

How can I prevent heat stroke?

Preventing risk will go a long way to reducing your dog’s risk of overheating. Leave your dog at home while you shop, and NEVER in a hot vehicle, even with a window cracked or while parked in the shade. Ensure she has plenty of water to drink and shade to retreat to at all times when you’re playing in the sun.

Heat is hard for dogs to take as they cannot instantly shed their coats to stay cool, unlike their human friends (and thick coats become uncomfortable much quicker).

Especially for senior dogs and dogs with medical conditions such as obesity, an overabundance of caution and supervision is always better than the alternative - even for dogs who are eager to engage in activities and spend time outside.

Do not expose your pup to heat or humidity - their bodies (especially those with short faces). Be very cautious about how much time they spend outside or in the sun during the summer.

A specially designed seatbelt or well-ventilated dog crate works well for car trips, as do specially designed seat belts for dogs.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect your dog is suffering from heat stroke? Our emergency veterinarians in Ventura are specially trained in emergency medicine and triage. If your pet is having an emergency late at night, on a weekend or holiday, or any time you are unable to reach your primary care veterinarian, we are here to help.

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