Learn About Dog Heat Stroke Symptoms and Emergency First Aid Treatment for Overheated Dogs. (Bill Davenport Photo)
Every summer, thousands of dogs and cats are injured or killed due to heat stroke, also known as hyperthermia.
In the hot weather, a dog can develop heat stroke during a walk or jog, while sitting in a hot car, or even while sitting outside in the sun. Some dog breeds are more prone to heat stroke, including Brachycephalic dogs like the Pug, Pekingese and Bulldog. Double-coated dogs — like the Siberian Husky and Pomeranian — are also prone to overheating.
My latest article on Suite101, titled Dog Heat Stroke Symptoms, Treatment — Signs of an Overheated Pet, explains how to recognize a dog’s symptoms of heat stroke and how to administer first aid for a pet who is overheated. Dr. Michael Levine, DVM, shares information on a dog’s heat stroke symptoms, emergency treatment for overheated dogs and he discusses hot weather dangers and situations that lead to heat stroke.
Dog Heat Stroke Symptoms — Red or Pale Gums, Stumbling, Seizure and More
As many pet owners know, a dog’s normal temperature is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hyperthermia or “heat stroke” occurs when the animal’s core body temperature rises due to overheating from exercise and/or exposure to hot weather. In dogs, heat stroke (mild to moderate) is diagnosed if the dog’s body temperature reaches 103.0 to 106.0 degrees. In severe heat stroke, dog body temperature will rise to 106.0 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
In a case of heat stroke, dogs may exhibit symptoms like:
- Discolored dog gums (brick red gums in a dog with mild or moderate heat stroke; white pale gums in dogs with severe heat stroke)
- Stumbling, collapse, weakness, a lack of coordination or refusal to walk
- Tremors or seizure
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Inability to drink water due to heavy panting
- Loss of consciousness or coma
Dog Heat Stroke Treatment and First Aid
Dogs require immediate first aid treatment if hyperthermia (the oppose of “hypothermia” ) is suspected. In this article, you’ll learn how to help a dog with heat stroke with home treatment measures like:
- Moving the dog out of the sun and heat; ideally, the dog should be taken indoors to an air conditioned location
- Slowly cooling the dog with water and fans
- Monitoring the dog’s core temperature
You’ll also find out how to help a dog with heat stroke after cooling has started. You’ll also find out why it’s important to avoid heat stroke treatments like ice water, pools and other methods that rapidly cool a hot dog’s core temperature.
In addition to discussing how to help a dog with heat stroke, Dr. Levine explains how to know when it’s time to transport the dog to an emergency veterinary clinic. Remember, cooling an overheated dog is the first step; once the dog’s body temperature has been lowered out of the danger zone, the pet owner can transport the dog to the veterinary clinic for further treatment.
Hyperthermia After Care — Why it’s Vital to Take an Overheated Dog to the Veterinary Clinic
It’s important to note that once an overheated dog has been cooled, he’s not out of the woods. In dogs, heat stroke triggers a series of changes inside the body — think of it like a domino effect. This downward spiral or “domino effect” will continue, even once the dog’s body temperature has been lowered. In cases of severe heat stroke, dogs require emergency veterinary treatment if they are to survive; dogs who are not treated can and will die from hyperthermia complications.
Dr. Levine also explains many of the health complications associated with heat stroke in dogs, along with why you should always bring a dog to the veterinary clinic after a heat stroke.
Common complications from overheating in dogs include:
- Shock (symptoms include low blood pressure, heart arrhythmia, pale gums)
- Organ failure, including heart failure and kidney failure
- Blood clotting problems and bleeding
- Breathing problems (particularly in dogs with asthma)
Very young animals, sick pets, elderly dogs and dogs with a pre-existing medical condition will likely see additional complications from heat stroke.
To learn more about the symptoms and signs of heat stroke in dogs, along with Dr. Levine’s recommendations on how to treat heat stroke in dogs, read Dog Heat Stroke Symptoms, Treatment — Signs of an Overheated Pet.