Signs & Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs

Today, our Westport vets define heatstroke in dogs and provide a list of symptoms for pup parents to watch out for. Also, we share recommendations on what to do if you suspect your dog is suffering from the condition. Plus, tips on prevention. 


What is heatstroke in dogs?

As hot weather arrives, heatstroke (also known as heat exhaustion) is a serious — potentially fatal — danger for dogs. When a dog’s body temperature is elevated above a normal range (101.5°F), hyperthermia (fever) can occur.

Heatstroke is a form of hyperthermia. It happens when the heat-dissipating mechanisms in your dog’s body are overwhelmed by excessive heat. When body temperature rises past 104°F, she enters the danger zone. If body temperature is above 105°F, this indicates heatstroke.

That’s why we need to ensure our dogs stay as cool and comfortable as possible during the summer months.

Signs & Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs, Westport Vets

What causes heatstroke in dogs?

On summer days, a vehicle's temperature can quickly exceed dangerous levels (even when the inside of our vehicles do not seem “that hot” to us, remember that your dog has a fur coat on). Leave the dog at home while you shop.

A lack of access to water and shade in your backyard or at the beach can also spell trouble. Shade and water are vital on warm weather days, especially for dogs with medical conditions such as obesity, and senior dogs.

Breed may also be a contributing factor when it comes to heatstroke; flat-faced, short-nosed pups tend to be more vulnerable to breathing issues. As you might imagine, thick coats quickly become uncomfortable. Each dog (even ones who love spending time outside engaging in activities) requires close supervision, especially on days when the mercury is rising.

What are symptoms of heatstroke in dogs?

During spring and summer, watch your canine companion closely. Heatstroke symptoms in dogs include:

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

What should I do if my dog is suffering from heatstroke?

Fortunately, heatstroke in dogs can be reversed if detected early. If you notice your pup displaying any symptoms listed above, immediately take him to a cooler place with good air circulation. If symptoms do not improve quickly and you are not able to take your dog’s temperature, contact your vet immediately for advice. 

Take your dog’s temperature if you have access to a rectal thermometer. If his temperature is less than 105°F, this qualifies as an emergency and your dog will need to see a vet. If this temperature is above 105°F, hose or sponge your dog’s body with cool (not cold) water. Pay special attention to his stomach. A fan may also be useful.

After a few minutes, retake his temperature until it gets down to 103°F. Do not reduce the temperature below 103°F, as this can also lead to problems. Take your dog to a veterinarian immediately whether you are able to reduce his temperature or not.

How can I prevent heatstroke?

Be very cautious about how much time your furry friend spends outside or in the sun during the summer. Do not expose your dog to heat and humidity - their bodies (especially those with short faces) are unable to handle it.

NEVER leave your dog in a car with closed windows - even if you park in the shade. Provide your pooch with lots of shade to retreat to and easy access to cool water. A well-ventilated dog crate or specially designed seat belt for dogs may also work well.

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 may be suffering from heatstroke? Contact our Westport veterinary team for care. At Poster Veterinary Associates we are passionate about providing your pet with the care they need. 

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