How to Recognise and Treat Heatstroke in Dogs

As we enter summer and the weather starts to warm up, it’s important for dog owners to be aware of the potential risks their pet faces. Heatstroke can affect all dogs and the condition can cause long lasting problems. We’ve outlined the symptoms and how to urgently treat the condition so you can swiftly and calmly handle the situation in the unfortunate event of your pet suffering from heat exhaustion.

In this article

What is heatstroke?

Heatstroke is a type of nonpyrogenic hyperthermia. Put simply, it’s a high temperature that’s not caused by a fever. It’s a very serious, and in some cases, life-threatening condition that can develop in as little as 30 minutes. It can damage your dog’s internal organs to the point where they stop functioning and can become fatal quickly, so if you suspect that your dog has heatstroke, you need to seek advice urgently.

What causes heatstroke in dogs?

Dogs can’t tolerate heat in the same way that humans do. They’re unable to sweat out excess body heat so they regulate their temperature through fast-paced, open-mouthed breathing, known as panting. Dogs can suffer from heatstroke when their temperature rises above the normal temperature. When a dog’s temperature rises too high, it can cause their organs to shut down and their heart to stop beating altogether.

What are the symptoms of heatstroke?

Thankfully, it’s not hard to spot signs of heatstroke in dogs. Symptoms include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Exhaustion
  • Drooling
  • Reddened gums
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Mental dullness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Collapsing and lying down
  • Urinating less or not at all
  • Muscle tremors

Which dogs are more prone to heatstroke?

While all dogs are at risk of heatstroke, dogs who are older or overweight are more prone to developing the condition. It’s also more common in flat-faced breeds such as Pugs or Bulldogs and heavy-coated breeds such as Huskies or Newfoundlands. Working or hunting breeds and extremely active dogs, such as German Shepherds, Spaniels and Retrievers, are at higher risk as well. In warmer months especially, you should go easier on these breeds, making sure they take plenty of breaks from exercise and stay well hydrated at all times.

What can I do to prevent my dog from getting heatstroke?

There are many things pet owners can do to lessen the risk of their dog suffering from heatstroke during summer.

Keep your dog hydrated

Make sure your dog has access to plenty of water and shade. When you’re taking your dog for a walk, don’t forget to take a bottle of water along and a towel. A wet towel is a great way to keep your dog cool and prevent heat exhaustion.

Never leave your dog in a hot car

It’s so important that you don’t leave your dog in the car during warmer months, even if you’re only popping into a shop for a couple minutes. If the outside temperature is 26°C, within five minutes, the inside of a car will reach 32°C and within 25 minutes, it will be as hot as 43°C. It’s best to just avoid unnecessarily travelling with your dog in the car at all in summer.

Limit exercise on hot days

If it’s extremely hot or humid outside, you should avoid taking your dog for a walk until it’s cooled down. The best time of day to walk your dog in summer is either in the morning or in the evening when it’s not as hot. When you do go for a walk, it’s best to avoid routes where your dog will have to walk on tarmac, concrete and sand for long periods of time.

What do I do if I think my dog has heatstroke?

If you suspect that your dog is suffering from heatstroke, you need to urgently help them normalise their body temperature.

  • Remove your dog from the heat and into a shaded area immediately.
  • If you can, get them to the shower and run cool water over their entire body – don’t use ice cold water as this may worsen the problem.
  • Check your dog’s temperature often. Continue cooling them until their temperature drops below 39.4°C.
  • Don’t submerge their head in the water, keep it elevated to prevent aspiration pneumonia.
  • Then take your dog to the vet immediately. When travelling, keep a window open and the air conditioner on.

Heatstroke is an emergency. Even if you think your dog appears to be recovering once you’ve soaked them down, they should still be seen by a professional as heatstroke can cause problems that are invisible to the eye, such as, swelling of the brain, intestinal bleeding, blood clots and kidney failure.

How do vets treat heatstroke?

Vets will firstly assess how severe the heatstroke is. They’ll then provide medical treatment as required. Treatment may include:

  • Supplemental oxygen
  • Cooling treatments
  • Putting your dog on a drip (intravenous fluids)
  • Blood tests to check that organs are functioning properly
  • Ongoing monitoring and treatment if necessary
pug

Comparing dog insurance

To avoid a costly trip to the vets, it’s best to have a pet insurance policy in place. At Compare by Review, we champion great service as opposed to price and we understand that providers who offer the best insurance may not necessarily be the cheapest. That’s why our comparison tables base insurance providers on product quality and the level of service they provide.

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