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Heatstroke in Dogs: Symptoms & When to Seek Emergency Care

Heatstroke is a serious, but easily avoidable condition in dogs. Today, our Tracy vets talk about heatstroke symptoms in dogs, how to prevent heatstroke, and when to seek emergency care.

What causes heat stroke in dogs?

When humans get too hot, we are able to eliminate heat from our bodies by sweating. Dogs on the other hand eliminate heat by panting. When panting isn’t enough, a dog’s body temperature rises, and they can experience heatstroke, which can become fatal if not treated immediately.

Any hot environment can cause heatstroke in dogs, but it is most commonly caused by the actions of careless pet owners. Things such as leaving a dog in a car or forgetting to provide adequate water and shade when they are outdoors can quickly cause your pup to develop heatstroke. 

Some dogs are more prone to heatstroke than others. Dogs with thick fur, short noses, or those suffering from medical conditions are predisposed to heatstroke. Even dogs who enjoy constant exercise and playtime should be closely monitored for signs of heatstroke, especially on hot and humid days.

What are the symptoms of heatstroke in dogs?

The most telling signs of heatstroke in dogs are:

  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling,
  • Reddened gums
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Mental dullness or loss of consciousness,
  • Uncoordinated movement or collapse. 

Heatstroke in dogs can indicate a serious medical problem and cause unseen problems, such as swelling of the brain, kidney failure, intestinal bleeding, and abnormal clotting of blood. For this reason, heatstroke is considered an emergency, and immediate veterinary care is highly recommended. 

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

Call your veterinarian or the nearest emergency animal hospital and tell them you are on your way. On the way to the veterinarian keep your dog as cool as possible by blasting the air conditioning or driving with the windows open if air conditioning is not available. 

Until you can get to the veterinarian, be sure to:

  • Remove the dog from the hot environment immediately.
  • Let your dog drink as much cool water as they want without forcing them to drink.
  • Put cool (not ice cold), wet towels on your dog's stomach and back to help cool them down 

Do not give a dog aspirin to lower their temperature—this can lead to other problems.

How will the veterinarian treat my dog's heatstroke?

Treatment for heatstroke in dogs will include intravenous fluid therapy to replace fluids and minerals. 

Your veterinarian will also monitor your dog for secondary complications such as kidney failure, development of neurologic symptoms, abnormal clotting, changes in blood pressure, and electrolytes abnormalities. 

How can I prevent my dog from developing heatstroke?

As a pet owner, it is important to be aware of the outside temperature and take appropriate measures to prevent heatstroke, especially during hot or humid conditions.

Never leave a dog unattended in a car, even in the shade the internal temperature of a car can quickly rise to dangerous temperatures for your dog. If your dog travels in a crate while in the car, choose a crate that has good ventilation and keep the air conditioning on if possible

When outdoors, always make sure your dog is in a well-ventilated area with access to plenty of water and shade.

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.

If your dog is displaying any symptoms of heatstroke, contact our Tracy vets right away to bring your pet in for emergency care.

Looking for quality veterinary care for your pet in Tracy?

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