A dog getting heatstroke can be a very scary, and can even be fatal for your pet. Much like humans, dogs get heatstroke when their temperatures rise to dangerous levels. Preventing heatstroke in your dog is much more effective than attempting to treat it when it happens. Luckily, heatstroke prevention requires simple, common-sense steps that are easy to perform and remember.

What Causes Heat Stroke?

Dogs can experience heatstroke when their body temperature goes above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Compared to humans, dogs have a much smaller amount of sweat glands, and generally expel their excess body heat through panting rather than sweating.

Heatstroke occurs most often when dogs are left in hot weather conditions for too long, such as being left outside, or being left in a car on a hot day. Poor ventilation can contribute to heatstroke whether its in a car, a dog house, or other enviroment.

Brachycephalic breeds, which are flat-faced breeds like pugs, bulldogs, and boxers, are more prone to getting heatstroke because their anatomy. The crowding of the soft tissue in their face restricts airflow more than dogs with a longer muzzle. In these breeds, heatstroke can occur even when it is a moderate temperature outside.

What Are the Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs?

The most important part of learning about heatstroke in dogs is being able to recognize the signs of it. Dogs experiencing heatstroke can have many symptoms including:

  • Heavy panting
  • Lethary
  • Dry mouth or dry gums
  • Bright or dark red gums & tongue
  • Excessive thirst
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Excessive drooling
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

How Can I Prevent Heatstroke in My Dog?

Dogs should be kept inside during the summer, or on other hot days. If they must be outside, ensure that they have an adequate amount of shade. Limit their activity outside to only what is essential. If your dog seems restless, and you’d like for them to get outdoor exercise, do so in the early morning or the late evenings when the temperatures are cooler.

Find some fun outdoor water play activities like filling up a kiddie pool for your dog to play in, playing in a sprinkler or a hose, or other similar water games. Some dogs love to play with ice cubes, and putting some their water bowl will also help to refresh them when they get hot.

Most importantly, never leave your dog in a hot car, or other hot enclosed space, even “just for a minute.” Temperatures in spaces without ventilation raise extremely fast. Even though the temperature outside may not feel very hot, the temperature in a car, or other enclosed space, can rise 20 degrees or more within only 10 minutes. This means on an 80 degree day, the temperature in your car could quickly rise to over 100 degrees.

What should I do if I think my dog has heatsroke?

If you notice signs of heatstroke in your dog, you must act quickly. First aid needs to begin immediately, before you even attempt to take them to a veterinarian. Get your dog indoors to an air-conditioned space.

If possible, soak your dog in cool, but not ice-cold, water. Soaking them in ice-cold water while they’re overheated can cause more problems. If you’re home, doing this in a bathtub or shower will be the most effective.

If your water source is more limited, dunking their paws in cool water can also help. Provide your dog water to drink in small amounts, or offer them ice cubes. You can also try applying a cool compress to their head to relieve their symptoms. In minor cases of heatstroke, your dog should appear to recover quickly. If they do not seem to improve after 10 to 15 minutes, get them to a veterinarian immediately.

Supervise your dog the entire time they are outside. Never leave a dog outside unattended on a hot day, or you can easily miss their signs of distress. Remember to keep an eye on their panting, skin elasticity, and desire to drink. Once you know what a normal level is, you’ll be able to more easily spot when something is wrong.

Now that you know how to recognize heatstroke, and what to do about it, you’re ready to enjoy your summer with your furry best friend – inside! Keep in mind that you should also check the ground temperatures, as well as, the air temperature. If you can’t put your bare feet to concrete for at least 5 seconds, your dog can’t be on it either!

For more information on heatstroke in pets, check out this wonderfully informative article from the American Association of Animal Hospitals.

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