Along with the hot summer weather comes an increased risk of heatstroke in dogs. Here our Orange County emergency vets list some of the symptoms of this potentially deadly condition, as well as what you should do if you think that your dog has heatstroke.
What is heatstroke?
When we get hot, humans are able to sweat in order to cool our bodies down, whereas dogs eliminate heat from their bodies by panting. If your dog becomes so hot that panting isn’t enough to effectively cool themselves down, their body temperature may continue to rise resulting in heatstroke. Heatstroke in dogs is extremely serious and can quickly become fatal if not treated immediately.
What causes heatstroke in dogs?
Heatstroke can be caused by any hot environment, but the most common cause is a careless action by a pet parent. Leaving your dog in a car on a hot day, or forgetting to provide adequate water and shade for your pet when they are outdoors can easily lead to heatstroke in your dog.
Any breed or size of dog can suffer from heatstroke but dogs with thick fur, short noses or those suffering from underlying medical conditions tend to be more susceptible to this condition. Pet parents should note that it isn't only neglected dogs who end up in our emergency animal hospital with heatstroke. Dogs who are outside enjoying exercise and having fun in hot summer weather should be closely monitored for symptoms of heatstroke.
What are the symptoms of heatstroke in dogs?
If your dog is suffering from heatstroke the most obvious symptom will be excessive panting. However other symptoms of heatstroke that pet parents should be aware of include drooling, reddened gums, vomiting, diarrhea, mental dullness or loss of consciousness, uncoordinated movement, and collapse.
What should I do if I think my dog has heatstroke?
Heatstroke symptoms in dogs should always be treated as an emergency since this condition can lead to serious medical issues such as swelling of the brain, kidney failure, intestinal bleeding and abnormal blood clotting.
Contact your primary care veterinarian, or the nearest animal emergency hospital if your dog is showing signs of heatstroke, and let them know you are on your way. While travelling to the vet's office, keep your vehicle as cold as possible with the windows open or the air conditioner on full.
Until you can get to the vet; remove the dog from the hot environment immediately; let your dog drink as much cool water as they want without forcing them to drink; and help your dog to bring their body temperature down placing a towel soaked in cool (not cold) water over them.
How will the vet treat my dog's heatstroke?
The safe reduction of your dog's body temperature will be your vet's focus. Cool water (not cold) may be poured over your dog's head, body, and feet, or cool wet cloths may be applied. In some cases rubbing alcohol may be applied to your dog's footpads in order to help dilate pores and increase perspiration. Treatment for dogs with heatstroke may also include intravenous fluids, mild sedation and low-concentration oxygen therapy.
Beyond treating the immediate symptoms of heatstroke, the veterinarian treating your dog will also monitor your pet for secondary complications such as electrolytes abnormalities, kidney failure, development of neurologic symptoms, abnormal clotting, and changes in blood pressure.
How can I prevent my dog from developing heatstroke?
In order to prevent your dog from experiencing heatstroke, it is essential to be aware of the outside temperature whenever your dog goes out. Provide your dog with a space that is well-ventilated and has access to plenty of clean water and shade. If your dog joins you on a car journey, ensure that your dog's crate has good ventilation, and never ever leave your dog in a car with the windows closed.