With Summer in full swing, it’s important to keep a close eye on your family and your pets. The heat of summer usually is well worth suffering through the cold of winter. It can also be dangerous without taking certain precautions.

Learn more about dog heat stroke symptoms and how to avoid a problem in the first place.

What is Heat Stroke in Dogs?

Heat stroke in dogs can be a very serious condition. If not taken care of as soon as possible, it can be fatal.

Heat stroke occurs when a dog’s natural system for cooling themselves isn’t doing enough to cool them down. A dog’s body temperature can get up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, but with its natural cooling system working as it should, the dog will recover.

If the dog is not able to cool itself down, its temperature will continue to rise. Once their body temperature exceeds 104, their vital body systems will begin shutting down. Once this happens, there is little chance for recovery without serious medical intervention.

A dog can’t sweat like a human can to cool down. So, a dog’s main method of lowering their body temperature is to pant. The moisture on a dog’s tongue evaporates when they pant, so this helps to provide cooling. The warm, moist air in their lungs also gets expelled. A dog’s blood vessels near their skin also expand when hot. This allows the skin to radiate heat much more easily. Therefore, keeping a dog in a cool environment is so important.

Dog Heat Stroke Symptoms

There are many symptoms you can look for in your dog is you suspect they could be suffering from heat stroke. Some early symptoms include:

  • Sluggish movement
  • Stopping often
  • Seeking shade
  • Continued panting
  • Breathing loudly
  • Very fast pulse
  • Dark red gums and tongue

Going beyond these early symptoms, once a dog has fully developed heat stroke these symptoms may arise:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Glazed over eyes
  • Excessive drooling
  • Staggering
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Seizures

If you notice these symptoms in your dog, it may be too late. Hopefully you can catch early symptoms and treat your dog accordingly.

If you suspect your dog is developing heat stroke, you can take these steps:

  • Pour cool water on their head, neck area, stomach, armpits and feet. It’s important to stress that the water be cool and not cold. Sudden changes in body temperature can be just a big a problem as well.
  • You may put rubbing alcohol on your dog’s footpads. This will dilate the pores in their feet and allow them to sweat better.
  • Give them ice. Put ice around their mouth and anus to help cool the body.

A veterinarian will be able to give your dog intravenous fluids or mild sedation to help with their heat stroke.

When is Dog Heat Stroke Most Common?

You might think that you are a responsible pet owner, but heat stroke can happen at almost any time. We’ve all seen videos or images of dogs being left in cars by ignorant owners, but a dog can develop heat stroke out in your backyard too!

When your dog plays, they create heat just like humans do. People can sweat to help lower their body temperature, but dogs only have a small percentage of their body that has sweat glands. Therefore, they rely on panting to remove their excess heat.

The problem with panting is that it’s not the most efficient way to expel heat. If your dog loves to play, they could be warming their body temperature to dangerous levels. This is especially true on hot and humid days. Heat and humidity both reduce the effectiveness of panting.

Even if your dog is an “outside dog” you might think they can take the heat. They may even have a little doghouse where they can escape to during the hottest and brightest parts of the day.

The truth is that this may be worse. Being in a confined space can make that space even hotter than the outside temperature. Even if your dog likes to be outside, it’s best to bring them in during the hottest parts of the day.

How to Prevent Heat Stroke in Dogs

The best way to treat a dog with heat stroke is to ensure they never get it in the first place. Here are some ways you can keep Fido cool when the mercury rises:

  • Never leave your dog in an enclosed space by themselves. This includes cars, dog carriers or a doghouse without ventilation. These enclosed spaces do not allow your dog to exchange their heat properly and can lead to serious problems.
  • Always give your dog access to clean, cool, and fresh water. Keep your dog’s water bowl in a shady spot to keep it from getting warm. Also make sure you check it regularly, so it doesn’t go empty.
  • Avoid the outdoors during the hottest parts of the day. Days are usually warmest in the afternoon, so try to limit walks to mornings and evenings.
  • Always provide shade for your dog. Your dog will obviously have to go outside during the day to relieve themselves. Make sure they can run around your yard freely, but that they also have a spot to relax in.

If you follow these tips, you can help make sure your dog stays safe this summer. Heat stroke can affect dogs of all ages and breeds, so it’s always a good idea to be prepared.

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