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Heat stroke in dogs: Prevention is key!

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Signs of a heat stroke in dogs: learn about its causes and symptoms!

By Emilie Heyl Content Writer

Updated on the

Heat stroke in dogs is a serious risk in the summer months and every dog owner should know how to recognise the signs and learn how to prevent it.

Summer rhymes with vacation, beach, barbecues and fun. But as dog owners, there are a few dangers you need to know about in order to protect your furry friend. One of these dangers is the heat! Indeed, with temperatures rising, your dog has a high chance of suffering from heat stroke (or heat exhaustion).

It is important to remember that dogs don’t sweat the same way we humans do. To eliminate the heat, dogs pant and sweat through their sweat glands in their paw pads. However, if panting isn’t enough, your dog’s body temperature rises and this is when it gets critical. To make sure your pooch stays safe and cool, read on to find out about the signs, causes, treatment and prevention of heat stroke.

What is a heat stroke?

Heat stroke, also known as heat exhaustion, is when a dog’s body temperature rises above its normal temperature (38°). If your dog reaches 40° that’s when he may suffer from heat stroke. Mild heat exhaustion can be treated at home, however if your dog is suffering from a severe heat exhaustion, then you’ll have to go see your vet immediately! Luckily, heat strokes are easily preventable.

What are the causes of heat stroke in dogs?

One of the main causes of heat stroke in dogs is the high temperatures and hot environments. Sadly, the most cases known of heat stroke reported are when pet owners leave their dogs in their car or forget to provide fresh water and shade if a dog is outside.

Like with most canine diseases, there are some dogs which are more prone to developing heat exhaustion:

Signs of heat stroke in dogs

Heat strokes can be fatal. Knowing about the signs of a heat stroke in dogs can be life-saving. Here you have a list of the most common signs:

  1. Irregular heart beat: A fast heartbeat is a sign your dog could be overheating. An increased heart rate is the body’s way of pumping as much warm blood to the extremities (towards the pads) and away from a vital organ. If you believe that your dog has tachycardia, go to the vet. This is one of the most common signs of a heat stroke in dogs.
  2. Lethargy or Dizziness: Among the most frequent signs of a heat stroke in dogs is lethargy/fatigue and dizziness. It is not normal when dogs feel like taking frequent breaks from their daily activities or lying down (without doing exercise) every so often. This means that he is feeling the effects of the heat! If this happens, you need to give him some time to recover and drink fresh water. If your dog collapses, immediately wet his coat with water and go to the vet.
  3. Excessive Drooling: when dogs are feeling hot, they tend to drool excessively. That is why excessive drooling is among the most important signs of a heat stroke in dogs. Dogs create excess saliva to dissipate heat better.
  4. Severe panting: a dog’s primary way to cool off is through panting. However, when suffering a heat stroke, dogs fully open their mouth and pant more than usual. Sometimes, you may observe a swollen tongue hanging out to the side.
  5. Vomiting and diarrhoea: These are two big signs of heat exhaustion.
  6. Bright red, blue, purple or grey gums: This means your dog is dehydrated.

If you have any doubts about these signs, don’t hesitate to call your vet!

How do you treat heat stroke in dogs?

First and foremost, you need to remove your dog from the hot environment that caused the heat stroke. If your dog is unconscious, do not attempt to force water into the mouth or nose! Just follow the next list of steps:

  • Take your dog immediately in a cool area
  • Wet your dog with cool water (not cold water). Don’t pour water on your dog as this could be dangerous but instead start by wetting their paws and ears and then move onto its body. For small dogs or puppies, use lukewarm water.
  • Place your dog in front of a fan
  • After you have lowered your dog’s body heat, call your vet, and take your dog to the nearest clinic.
  • Give your dog cool (not cold) water as much as you can throughout the whole process.

How to prevent heat exhaustion in dogs?

If your dog hasn’t suffered a heat stroke but the ambient temperature is dangerously rising, keep a constant watch. When possible, follow these tips:

  • Check your pet for signs of heat stroke.
  • Take your dog's temperature, if it exceeds 40°C, go see an emergency vet.
  • Make sure you have fresh water at his reach
  • Never leave your dog in a parked car
  • Don’t let your dog go outside when it’s the hottest time of the day 
  • Walk your dog early in the morning and late at night
  • Keep your house cool

Summer should be a time of relaxation and fun, so make sure your dog enjoys his summer as much as you do. It only takes a little bit more attention and care.

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