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Heat Stroke in Dogs

Did you know that dogs barely sweat? Dogs only have a small number of sweat glands on their paw pads, and so their primary way of regulating body temperature is by panting.


WHAT IS HEAT STROKE?

Heat stroke ranges from mild heat exhaustion, which can be treated at home, to severe heatstroke, that can cause loss of consciousness and organ failure. Normal body temperature for a dog is 102.5 degrees F, and with heat stroke, body temperature can rise dramatically. Permanent brain and organ damage can occur when the body temperature reaches or exceeds 106 degrees F.


SIGNS OF HEAT STROKE

  1. Increased panting

  2. Excessive thick, sticky drool

  3. Fever (above 103 degrees F)

  4. Bright red, purple, or bluish gums

  5. Increased heart rate

  6. Lethargy / Weakness

  7. Muscle tremors

  8. Vomiting / Diarrhea

  9. Lack of urine


PREVENTION

  1. Give your dog access to shade and water when outside.

  2. Never leave a dog inside a car alone. If it is 80 degrees outside, the temperature inside a parked car can reach 100 degrees in about 10 minutes. On a 90-degree day, it can reach 110 degrees in 10 minutes, and 130 degrees in only 30 minutes.

  3. Make sure your dog is not outside too long.

  4. Avoid walking your dog during peak temperature hours.

  5. Keep your house cool.

  6. Do not exercise your dog on very hot days.

  7. If using a muzzle, use a basket muzzle that allows your pet to pant.

Remember, flat face dogs (brachycephalic breeds) can show clinical signs of heat stroke even with mild temperatures outside temperature and humidity are only moderately elevated.


NEXT STEPS

If you suspect your pet is suffering heat stroke, the goal is to slowly decrease their body temperature.

  1. Remove your dog from heat.

  2. Cool your dog down. Place cool (not cold) washcloths on head, stomach, armpits and feet. You can also run cool water over your dog. Be sure the water is cool, not cold.

  3. Give your dog access to water.


TREATMENT

Heat stroke is an immediate medical emergency, and you should take your pet to the vet immediately. Your vet may use intravenous fluids, mild sedation and oxygen therapy to treat heat stroke, with the goal of decreasing body temperature to 103.


PROGNOSIS

Your dog’s prognosis will depend on:

  1. How high their temperature spiked

  2. How long the hyperthermia persisted

  3. Your pet's prior physical condition. For example, if your pet is healthy and was treated immediately, they are likely to make a full recovery.

Unfortunately, complications may develop secondarily to hyperthermia, causing permanent organ damage or death.

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