Heatstroke in dogs

A dog panting while lying on the floor
When a dog's body temperature increases to unsafe levels, usually exceeding 104°F (40°C), it can cause heat stroke, a serious and sometimes fatal condition. Continue to read further to learn how to identify heat stroke, take immediate actions and how to prevent it.

Dogs' heat stroke causes

Dogs are susceptible to heat stroke due to a combination of environmental influences and inherited traits that make it difficult for them to regulate their body temperature.

Heat stroke can occur when a dog is exposed to high temperatures for an extended period of time and cannot cool down. Dogs are more likely to suffer from heat stroke in humid weather because it is more difficult for them to cool themselves by panting.

Confining a dog in a parked car or another heated area can be very risky, even for a short while. Car temperatures have the potential to rise quickly and become fatal. A dog's risk of developing heat stroke can be raised by keeping them in an environment with poor ventilation, such as a tiny room or kennel. A dog's body temperature also can get dangerously high from vigorous exercise or play, especially in hot weather. Overheating can be caused by not getting enough rest breaks and by not providing enough time to hydrate during activities. Dogs that don't drink enough water may find it harder to control their body temperature, which increases their risk of heat stroke.

Dogs with short noses and flat features, like bulldogs, pugs, and boxers, have limited airways and are more likely to suffer from heat stroke because they can't pant as well. Dogs with thick fur coats, like malamutes and huskies, are more prone to overheating in warm temperatures due to their thick coats.

Dogs with certain medical issues are susceptible to heat stroke. Canines who already have heart or lung conditions are more susceptible to heat stroke. Dogs that are overweight may find it more difficult to release heat since they are more insulated. Very young puppies and older dogs are especially susceptible to high temperatures.

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Why dogs are at such risk from heat stroke

Dogs begin to pant a lot as their body temperature rises in an effort to cool themselves. Dehydration results from excessive panting's quick water loss.

In an effort to cool the skin, the dog's heart rate rises, placing additional strain on the heart. The dog attempts to release more heat by panting, which also causes an increase in respiration rate.

Further dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can result from vomiting and diarrhoea brought on by reduced blood supply to the gut. Acute kidney injury caused by dehydration and decreased blood flow can impede the kidneys' capacity to filter waste. Overheating and decreased blood flow can harm the liver and even cause liver failure.

The dog may become weak, disoriented, or uncoordinated as a result of the brain overheating. Because the brain cannot operate correctly at high temperatures, severe overheating can result in seizures. In severe situations, the dog can pass out and become unconscious. As the body exhausts its clotting factors, heat stroke can cause widespread clotting in the bloodstream, which is followed by major bleeding. Overheating can cause muscle tissue to degrade, releasing myoglobin into the bloodstream and exacerbating kidney injury.

Extended exposure to heat can widen blood vessels excessively, which might result in a severe drop in blood pressure. Dehydration, a drop in blood pressure, and a reduction in blood flow to the organs can all combine to cause shock, a potentially fatal illness.

Excessive free radicals produced by increased metabolic activity might harm tissues and cells. The body's proteins denature at high temperatures, which results in cellular malfunction and sadly death.

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Early symptoms of heat stroke

  • Panting to cool down, but sudden, vigorous, or excessive panting may indicate heat stroke.
  • Overeating dogs frequently exhibit excessive salivation, or drooling, in addition to panting.
  • Elevated heart rate - a dog that is suffering from heat stroke could beat much more quickly.
  • Gums and tongue turning bright red or dark - this is a sign of overheating and poor blood circulation.
  • Weakness or lethargy - dogs may exhibit signs of unusual fatigue, weakness, or reluctance to move.

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Advanced symptoms of heat stroke

  • As the disease worsens and the dog gets increasingly dehydrated, vomiting and diarrhoea are possible signs.
  • Due to the neurological effects of heat stroke, dogs may exhibit erratic behaviour or have trouble walking, unsteadiness or disorganized motions.
  • In extreme circumstances, the dog may collapse, lose consciousness, or become unresponsive.
  • The brain may experience seizures as a result of a very high body temperature.
  • Dogs may have glassy or unfocused eyes when they stare.

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First aid - Immediate actions to take

In order to reduce your dog's body temperature and stop more problems, you must take immediate action if you think they may be suffering from heat stroke.

Move your dog right away to a more air-conditioned space or a cooler, shaded spot. Give your dog tiny cups of cool, but not frigid, water to drink. Don't make them down too much drink too soon. Wet your dog's body with cool water—not icy cold water. Damp towels or cloths should be applied to their groin, armpits, and neck. To assist in cooling things down, you can also utilize a fan.

Check the rectal temperature of your dog with a thermometer, if you have one. Reduce it to around 39.4°C, or 103°F. Once the temperature reaches 103°F, stop cooling to avoid hypothermia. It is crucial to take your dog to the vet right away, even if it appears to be recuperating.

Tell your vet about your dog's symptoms and let them know you're on your way. They can now get ready for your arrival thanks to this. As soon as you can, carefully and swiftly get your dog to the vet. Internal damage from heat stroke may require medical attention. Try not to panic, as your dog might sense your nervousness. Speak to them in a calm manner, keep an eye out for any changes in your dog's health and take note of any new symptoms or behavioural adjustments.

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How to prevent dog heat stroke

Your dog's chance of suffering from heat stroke can be greatly decreased by adopting preventive measures. In order to protect your dog's safety and well-being during hot weather, you must be vigilant about their surroundings, level of activity, and hydration.

Keep your dog inside during the hottest hours of the day, which are usually from 10 AM to 4 PM, to avoid extreme heat. When it's cooler outside, take your dog for a walk early in the morning or late at night. In hot weather, walking and fun should be less intense and longer. If the sand or concrete is too hot to handle with your hands, it's probably too hot for your dog's paws as well.

Never leave your dog in the parked car, temperatures inside a car can climb quickly and become fatal, even with slightly open windows. You should keep your dog at home where it is cooler if you need to run errands.

Make sure your dog always has access to clean, cold water. Arrange multiple water bowls throughout your house and garden. Bring water when you take your dog for walks or other activities.

During the hot summer months, keep your house cool with air conditioning and good ventilation. Give your dog resting spots in your yard that are shady. Make use of beds or cooling mats made specifically to keep dogs cool. Purchase cooling vests or bandanas to assist in controlling the body temperature of your dog. To generate airflow and keep your dog cool, use fans. In the garden give your dog access to a kiddie pool with shallow water so they may splash around and cool off. To help your dog cool off, simply sprinkle them with a hose or misting device.

Brush your dog on a regular basis to get rid of extra fur and avoid matting, which traps heat. Though shaving to the skin is not advised for dogs with heavy coats because fur also shields them from the sun. Instead, consider giving your dog a summer haircut.

Learn the first aid procedures to follow in the event that your dog exhibits heat stroke symptoms. Talk to your loved ones about the risks of heat stroke and how to avoid it.

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