The summer is here, and that means that it’s hot outside. What does that mean for your pup? Find out how heatstroke can be a serious problem for doggies that are exposed to too much heat.
Heatstroke occurs when your dog gets too hot. Their internal temperature elevates above normal, and this can mean bad news. While heatstroke most commonly occurs in the summer because of the hot weather, dogs can get heat stoke any time during the year.
If not immediately treated, this condition can become life-threatening.
It is important that when you are playing with your dog outside, you always have a source of water with you, and there is a place where it can cool off nearby. As the summer approaches, it is essential to be mindful of how the heat can affect your dog. You might be able to tolerate the scorching rays of the summer sun, but your dog won’t.
What is heatstroke?
Heatstroke is a common term used to describe when a dog becomes excessively hyperthermic. Anything above a dog’s normal temperature (101.5°F) is considered hyperthermic. If its internal temperature rises above 105°F, then the dog will suffer from heatstroke.
Marvelous Dogs say canines can become hyperthermic for many reasons, such as disease, exercise, and environmental temperature. When dogs get heatstroke, their hyperthermia is most commonly associated with prolonged or excessive exercise, restricted access to water and shade, leaving the dog in a car without good ventilation, and environmental heat.
There are only two ways dogs can remove heat from their bodies: panting and vasodilation of blood vessels. Since dogs cannot sweat like humans, except at their paw pads (which isn’t enough), they can only remove heat through moisture by panting. When dogs are panting, they expel liquid carrying heat from their tongues, nasal passages, and the lining of their lungs. Blood vessel vasodilation also helps dogs cool down, though panting is the primary way. When blood vessels expand, especially in the ears and face, they bring more overheated blood near the skin’s surface, where the blood can cool off.
Heatstroke occurs when the dog’s two mechanisms for cooling down are overwhelmed. Since the internal temperature rises so rapidly in dogs—as little as just minutes—they cannot remove the heat fast enough. This condition can be life-threatening if not immediately treated. Multiple organ failure occurs when the internal temperature reaches 107°F-109°F, which can lead to death.
What are the early warning signs?
Though heatstroke has a rapid onset, it is easy to catch the first signs. The problem is that people often don’t recognize them for what they are. These early signs include:
- Heavy panting
- Rapid breathing
- Excessive drooling
- Tongue hanging out
- Dry mucous membranes (dehydration)
- Bright red gums and tongue
- Hot skin
- Higher heart rate
Continued exposure to heat or over-exercising will lead to signs such as:
- Pale mucous membranes with white or blue gums (severe dehydration)
- Very rapid heart rate
- Drop in blood pressure
- Dilated pupils
- Muscle tremors
When a dog reaches the point where they demonstrate these later signs of heatstroke, they are in shock and need immediate medical attention.
How to prevent heatstroke
When it comes to heatstroke, prevention and recognizing the early signs are key. Don’t spend too long outside on a hot day or let your dog exercise excessively for a long time. Try taking out your dog at cooler times of the day, like in the morning and evening.
A good way to measure how hot it is outside is by touching the pavement with your hand. If you can barely hold your hand there for longer than five seconds, then it is scorching. (Plus, if the pavement is too hot for you, it is too hot for your dog’s paws and could burn them.)
Don’t let your dog get to the point where they look like they are really sick. If you suspect that your dog is becoming too hot, stop whatever activity you are doing with them, remove them from the hot area, find shade, and get them some water to drink.
You don’t want to see the later signs of heatstroke because the consequences might be irreversible.
Factors that influence heat stroke
Several factors contribute to heatstroke. According to the AKC, these include:
- Physical fitness
- Medical disorders
Which dog breeds are most likely to suffer heatstroke?
All dogs are susceptible to heatstroke, but some of them are more likely to suffer from it than others. All brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds such as the Bulldog, Boston Terrier, and Pug are at a higher risk of developing heatstroke because they have trouble breathing and cannot efficiently pant. Longhaired breeds like the Golden Retriever, Siberian Husky, and Chow Chow are also prone to heatstroke.
While it might be tempting to shave their fur to help prevent heatstroke, this actually increases the likelihood of getting heatstroke. Their double-layered fur is designed to help protect them from the heat because the undercoat keeps them insulated. Their coat will naturally try to keep them cooler in the summer by shedding in the spring.
There are other reasons why some breeds are at higher risk for heatstroke than others. Obesity can play a factor, and dogs that are not very energetic like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Shih Tzu, and Pekingese are more likely to get heatstroke on a hot day, not just because of their long hair or short snout, but also because they are overweight. Golden Retrievers and Labradors are prone to developing laryngeal paralysis, making it hard for them to breathe because they can’t properly open and close their larynx. Such a condition can also increase their heatstroke risk.
How Is heatstroke treated in dogs?
In the early stages of heatstroke, treatment involves lowering the dog’s internal temperature. Good ways to cool off your dog are to give it water to drink, spraying it with cool water, and using a fan. Avoid splashing your dog with ice-cold water or immediately putting them in an air-conditioned room, as drastic temperature changes can make things worse. In a moderate case of heat stroke, the condition could last at most for an hour.
Use a thermometer if you have one to check your dog’s temperature. If it is above 105°F even after trying to cool down your dog, then consider the situation an emergency.
Take your dog to the veterinarian right away. Dogs in the critical stages of heatstroke will require fluids, medication, support, and oxygen. They can remain hospitalized for 24-72 hours, depending on the severity of the heatstroke.
Because the high temperatures can result in organ failure and complications might not arise immediately, it is important to follow up with your veterinarian to determine if treatment for other secondary conditions is necessary.
What is a dog’s likely prognosis after heat stroke?
The prognosis of a dog can vary depending on how elevated its body temperature was, how long it was hyperthermic, and its body condition before the heatstroke.
Most dogs will completely recover to normal if the temperature wasn’t extremely high and the hyperthermia didn’t last for too long. If they suffered from a severe episode of heatstroke, then they could have permanent organ damage.
Not all dogs die from heatstroke, but the secondary lasting effects induced by heat stroke could lead to the dog’s demise. Dogs that have experienced severe heatstroke also have a higher chance of heatstroke reoccurring because their thermoregulatory center could be damaged.
Summer is a great time to go out and enjoy outdoor activities. Often, you want to bring your dog along too because you don’t want to leave it behind and want it to have fun. Spending time with your dog outside and having fun with them is important for your bondage but be mindful of how the weather might affect your dog.
If you’re feeling the heat, your dog is sure to feel it too. You might be able to tolerate it, but heatstroke can develop in just minutes for dogs. Keep a close watch on your dog while your outside to prevent them from going into heatstroke. It’ll avoid you a scare and keep your dog happy and healthy.