Heat Stroke In Dogs What Are The Signs (And What Should You Do!)

Heat Stroke In Dogs
Written by Graeme Hall

As the weather warms up, it’s important to know how the increased temperatures can affect your dog. In fact, overheating in dogs is not something to be taken lightly, and it can lead to serious and potentially fatal conditions such as heat stroke and even cardiac arrest.

Most breed of dogs don't do well when exposed to warmer temperatures and heat stroke in dogs is much more prevalent in the warmer summer months especially when owners leave their dogs locked in the car (shame on you!).

Because of this, it’s crucial that you’re fully educated on the signs of heat exhaustion in dogs and how to treat your dog if they become too hot. Knowing exactly what to do when your K9 friend becomes overheated can save his life - if you love your dog then keep on reading!

Symptoms of Heat Stroke in Dogs

The fur that covers your dog is perfect for the colder months and does an excellent job of keeping your canine buddy warm, but it can become a problem during the hotter months (imagine not being able to take off your winter jacket in summer!).

Unlike humans, that can cool down through sweat, a dog’s way of reducing their body temperature is to pant (with that said, dogs have sweat glands in their feet, but the heat dissipation is only minimal).

When panting alone isn't enough to cool down your dog their body temperature can quickly rise leading to dog heat exhaustion. 

Below are signs of heat exhaustion if you think your dog is showing any of these heat-related symptoms read the next section on how to treat your overheating dog.

  • Excessive Panting
  • Gums or A Tongue That's Turned Blue or Bright Red
  • Rapid Pulse or Heartbeat
  • Body Temperature Reaches 104-110 Degrees Fahrenheit
  • Collapse Or Experience Convulsions
  • Lack of Coordination or Maybe Staggering
  • Vomiting or Diarrhea (Sometimes With Blood)
  • Excessive Thirst
  • Glazed Eyes

What Should I Do If My Dog Gets Heat Stroke?

These are the some of the most common symptoms that your dog needs help due to overheating. As the heat in your dog gets worse, it can cause seizures, coma, cardiac arrest, and even death. 

Below are some quick steps to treat an overheated dog - these could save the life of your pet!

1. Move Your Dog To A Cooler Area

If your dog is showing signs of heat exhaustion, the first thing you need to do is to remove them from the hot area immediately. Place cold, wet towels over your dog especially under the armpits and on the groin area. If you have access to an electric fan, lay your dog in front of the fan.

If you're near a cold water source such as a kids paddling pool, a hosepipe or even a bathtub, place your dog inside to cool them down quickly.

2. Check Your Dogs Temperature

Ideally, you need to check your dog’s temperature using a rectal thermometer. If you don't own rectal thermometer use a regular thermometer instead and place it under their armpit. Heat stroke in dogs typically occurs when a dog's temperature falls between 103 and 106 degrees.

If the temperature is exceeding 106, your dog could be at risk of heat stroke. If your canine buddy is already in the danger zone give your local veterinarian a call immediately.

The rectal temperature of your dog should be checked roughly every 5 minutes, and once you see that the body temperature has dropped and is around 103ºF, the cooling measures should be stopped so that your dog doesn't continue to lose heat. On the flip side If your dog becomes too cold they can also have other life-threatening issues - you need to find the right balance.

Recommended Dog Thermometer

Pet Thermometer

3. Give Your Dog Water

If your dog is conscious, try to make them drink water, cool (not ice cold) water is perfectly fine. However, if your dog isn't willing to drink don't try to force it, the water could end up in the lungs which will lead to even more complications.

If your dog doesn't want to drink, we recommend wetting their tongue with water instead. Make sure the water isn't too cold, and ice cubes are a big NO, the last thing you want to do is to bring your dog's temperature down too quickly which can then lead to shock.

4. Get Your Dog To The Vet!

Even if your dog is now showing signs of improvement, we still recommend taking them to see a veterinarian ASAP. His recovery may only be short-lived and your dog could still be dehydrated or have other complications and could take a turn for the worse again if not checked over by a professional.

dog panting

Avoiding Heat Exhaustion

As always, prevention will be the best cure to stop your dog overheating. To be honest, there's no reason your dog should get too hot if you keep a close eye on your furry friend and follow some basic safety precautions during the warmer summer months.

For example, you can limit your dogs exercise when the outdoor temperature is hot or humid. You can also make sure that there are shaded areas in your garden or yard - if your dog goes outside.

Never, I repeat never under any circumstances, leave your dog in your parked car - even if your car is parked in the shade and the windows are partly rolled down, don’t do it! 

Even on regular days when temperatures are in the 60 to 70s the temperature in your car can still reach 120 degrees pretty fast.

If your dog needs to get some exercise, take him for his regular walk and then turn on your garden sprinkler and let him run around under that to cool down before bringing him back indoors. If the outside temperature is too hot, it’s better to take your dog for a walk either early in the morning or late afternoon when the sun isn't so hot. 

Remember, the hot pavements can also burn your dog's footpads.

If you have a long-haired breed of dog consider giving your canine buddy a trim during the hot summer months - he’ll thank you for it!

Now you're armed with the knowledge of how to recognize and treat heat stroke in dogs you can enjoy the summer with your four-legged friend and not worry about him becoming over exhausted!

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About the author

Graeme Hall

Graeme is the founder of Doggytastic! which is where he blogs about dog training, health, nutrition and anything else related to keeping a dog happy and healthy. Want to know a little bit more? Make sure to check out his full bio.

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