How to Tell if Your Dog Has Heat Stroke

In this post, our Greensboro vets explain heat stroke in dogs and provide a list of symptoms for pup parents to watch out for. Also, we tell you what to do if you suspect your dog is suffering from this condition and provide tips on prevention.


What is heat stroke in dogs?

When the hot weather arrives, heat stroke (also referred to as heat exhaustion) is a serious - sometimes fatal - danger for dogs. Hyperthermia (fever) can set in when a dog’s body temperature is elevated above a normal range (101.5°F).

Heat stroke, or heat exhaustion, is a form of hyperthermia. It occurs when excessive heat overwhelms your dog’s heat dissipating mechanisms in his or her body. When body temperature rises past 104°F, he enters the danger zone. If body temperature is above 105°F, this is indicative of heat stroke.

That’s why we need to make sure our dogs are as cool and comfortable as possible in the summer months.

What causes heat stroke in dogs?

A vehicle’s temperature on summer days can quickly rise to dangerous levels (even when it does not seem “that hot” to us, keep in mind that your dog has a coat on). Leave your dog at home while you shop.

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

Breed may also be a contributing factor; short-nosed, flat-faced canines tend to be more susceptible to breathing problems. As you might imagine, thick coats become uncomfortable much quicker. Each dog (even ones who are eager to engage in activities and time outside) needs close supervision, especially on days when the temperature rises.

What are symptoms of heat stroke?

During the spring and summer, keep a close eye on your dog for symptoms of heat stroke, including:

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

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

Fortunately, heat stroke 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, take your dog to your vet immediately for emergency care

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 heat stroke?

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 heat stroke? We provide urgent care to pets experiencing emergencies. If your pet is having an emergency during our regular hours, contact our Greensboro animal clinic today.

Heat stroke in dogs, Greensboro Vet

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