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How to Treat Heatstroke in Dogs

Updated on April 25, 2010

Dogs should never be left in hot cars unattended!

Heatstroke is a medical emergency in dogs which can be potentially fatal, treatment therefore, should not be delayed. Dogs are particularly prone to heatstroke because unlike humans, they are not equipped with the best cooling system, rather they are unable to sweat (other than through their foot pads) and rely on panting to absorb cool air while removing warm air. Trouble often arises when the temperatures in the environment are very close to the dog's internal temperature causing their cooling system to no longer be efficient as it is supposed to be. This is when heat stroke takes place.

Causes of Heat Stroke in Dogs

The likelihood of heatstroke arising increases when the dog is exposed to certain predisposing factors. Owners therefore, should lower the chances of their dog developing heat stroke by avoiding the following scenarios:

-Allowing the dog strenuous exercise on very hot and humid days

-Keeping the dog unattended in a vehicle on a hot day

-Keeping the dog out in the heat with no shadow or water

-Leaving a dog on hot surfaces such as asphalt or concrete

There are also predisposing factors in dogs that make dogs more prone than others in developing heat stroke such as :

-Belonging to a Brachycephalic breed such as Pugs, Bulldogs, Boxers and Pekingese

-Having an underlying heart or pulmonary disease that interferes with the dog's ability to cool

-Developing a fever or seizures which both raise the dog's temperature core

Symptoms of Heat Stroke in Dogs

Heatstroke arises when the dog's rectal temperature measures over 104 degrees. A normal dog's temperature ranges between 99.5 to 102.5. Dogs affected by heatstroke develop the following symptoms:

-Heavy panting

-Difficulty and noisy breathing

-Bright red tongue and bright red gums

-Tacky saliva

-Bloody diarrhea

- The presence of Petechiae, small pinpoint bleeding under the skin

*Dogs must be monitored as well for a serious condition known as laryngeal edema, a condition caused by excessive panting where the larynx swells possibly turning life threatening if the dog's airway becomes obstructed. Affected dogs will develop a typical stridor, become cyanotic and be unable to breath.

As the heat stroke progresses symptoms of shock set in:

-Gums from bright red turn pale and grayish

- Dogs develop unsteadiness and a staggering gait

At this point, the dog may collapse, have seizures, go into coma ad eventually succumb.

Treatment of Heatstroke in dogs

Affected dogs must be cooled done rapidly and in the correct way. They must be removed from the heat and placed in a cool area, preferably where a fan or air conditioner is running. The temperature should be taken rectally.

According to Dr. Debra Primovic. in an article for PetPlace "Mildly increased temperature (less than 105 F) may only require rest, a fan to increase air circulation, fresh water to drink and careful observation. Temperatures of 105 to 107 F should be hospitalized on intravenous fluids and other medications.''

Dogs with temperatures above 104 degrees according to the Dog Owner's Veterinarian handbook should be immersed in a tub with cool water (never icy water) for up to two minutes. Cool packs may be helpful as well in mild cases and can be applied to the groin area. Paws may be wiped with cool water. The temperature should continue to be monitored until the safer zone of 103 degrees is reached. Once below 103 degrees, the dog should be dried carefully.

All dogs victims of heatstroke should seek veterinary treatment because of the risk of complications that may arise right away or be delayed. Serious complications encompass: laryngeal edema, kidney failure, seizures, irregular heartbeats and spontaneous bleeding.


Dog owner's home veterinary handbook Debra Eldredge DVM, Liisa Carlson DVM, Delbert G. Carlson D.V.M and James M. Giffin M.D Wiley Publishing, INC

Great devices fr those hot summer days!

K&H Pet Products Cool Bed III Cooling Dog Bed Large Gray 32" x 44"
K&H Pet Products Cool Bed III Cooling Dog Bed Large Gray 32" x 44"

We're now keeping pets cooler than ever with the new, Cool Bed III. No electricity is required to operate the Cool bed III and these beds are attractively designed and allow a cool spot for dogs. Simply add the recommended amount of water through the easy fill cap and burp with the new easy air adjustment valve. Our unique Cool Core diverts the liquid better than ever throughout the bed for advanced cooling power. The new nylon/vinyl exterior is tougher than ever!! Being extremely affordable, the Cool bed III is the choice for any dog owner looking to offer their pet a comfy, dry, cool place to relax. Recommended for indoor and outdoor use.

Dog Water Bottle - Portable - Carrying Strap and Belt Clip Included - Handi Drink 17Oz
Dog Water Bottle - Portable - Carrying Strap and Belt Clip Included - Handi Drink 17Oz

Handi Drink Portable Pet Water makes it easy to bring water for your dog or cat on trips, walks, camping, hiking, beach, park, car rides  anywhere! Handi Drink Portable Pet Water is a unique, all-in-one water bottle and pet dish. Its light weight, carrying strap and belt clip make it easy to carry. Handi Drink is great for hot weather. This self-contained water dispenser folds out to create a tray for your dog or cat can drink from. You can relax knowing your pet is drinking safe clean water. No spills, no leaks, no wasted water, no hassles, no backwash.

Cool K-9 Evaporative Cooling Dog Reflective Safety Vest - Large
Cool K-9 Evaporative Cooling Dog Reflective Safety Vest - Large

Using water absorbing, polymer crystals, sewn into supplex fabric, the evaporative process allows heat to physically transfer from the dog to the jacket, similar to our bodies own manner of cooling through perspiration. Keeping your dog cool and protected from heat exhaustion. The COOL K-9 cooling jacket for dogs can help your dog stay cool on hot days. Water-absorbing, cross-linked polymer crystals are sewn into the lining. Once saturated with water, the jacket works by evaporation. The evaporative process allows heat to transfer from the dog to the jacket, and from the jacket to the air  similar to our bodies own manner of cooling through perspiration. The jacket absorbs water quickly, but releases it slowly. By submerging the jacket in water for just a few minutes, the crystals absorb enough to keep the evaporative process going for up to several days. Even when fully soaked, the jacket holds the water, keeping your dog cool and dry. The jacket can be charged over and over

Vet's Best Sun Spray Sunscreen for Dogs, 4oz
Vet's Best Sun Spray Sunscreen for Dogs, 4oz

Sun Spray® Sunscreen for Dogs helps provide extra production from harmful ultraviolet rays while your pet is outdoors, and applies without the mess of lotions. Use on ears, nose, muzzle, pink skin or spray entire hair coat of light-colored or short-haired breeds.



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    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      It's 105 f here today so useful info again

    • melshomecorner profile image

      Melinda Winner 8 years ago from Mississippi

      great advise perfet timing