Heat stroke is a condition that results from an elevation in body temperature, also referred to as hyperthermia. Typically, hyperthermia occurs as a response to a hot environment or inflammation in the body. When a dog is exposed to elevated temperatures, heat stroke or heat exhaustion can result.
How Dogs Release Heat
Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat through their skin. Rather, they release heat primarily by panting and sweating through their foot pads and nose. When a dog is unable to effectively expel heat, the internal body temperature begins to rise. Damage to the dog’s cellular system and organs may become irreversible once the dog’s temperature reaches 106 degrees.
Recognize The Signs Of Heat Stroke
The following signs may indicate that your dog is suffering from heat stroke:
- Increase in their usual rectal temperature. If the temperature is over 104 degrees, then action is required, if temp is over 106 degrees, then seek emergency treatment.
- Excessive panting
- Dark red gums
- Tacky or dry mucous membranes, especially the gums
- Lying down and unwilling, or unable, to get up
- Collapse and/or loss of consciousness
- Thick saliva
- Dizziness or disorientation
Ways To Prevent Heat Stroke
- On a warm day, NEVER leave your dog in the car even if the windows are cracked and the car is parked in the shade. When the weather outside is extremely hot, the inside of the car can turn into an oven. Temperatures can rise to dangerously high levels in a matter of minutes.
- Avoid vigorous exercise on hot days. Try to walk in the early morning or late evening when the temps are a bit cooler. Always take some water for your dog and if the asphalt or concrete is hot, let your dog wear booties to protect their feet.
- Always have fresh cool water available for your dog.
- Certain dog breeds are more prone to heat sensitivity. Obese dogs, dogs that have darker coats, and brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds, such as Pugs and Bulldogs. Use extreme caution when these dogs are exposed to heat.
If You Suspect Heat Stroke
· Move your dog to a cool spot right away.
· Use cool water to begin cooling your dog. You may place wet rags or washcloths on the foot pads and around the head. Replace them as they get warm. Avoid covering the body with wet towels, as it may trap in heat.
· DO NOT use ice or ice water! Extreme cold can cause the blood vessels to constrict, preventing the body's core from cooling and may cause the internal temperature to increase. In addition, over-cooling can cause hypothermia, which may lead to additional problems. When the body temperature reaches 103.9°F, you can safely stop cooling. At this point, your dog's body should continue cooling on its own.
· Offer your dog fresh, cool water, but do not force your dog to drink. Try not to let your dog drink excessive amounts at one time.
· Call or visit your vet right away. Internal damage might not be obvious to the naked eye, so an exam or further testing may be recommended by your veterinarian.
Sadly, many dogs may have permanent damage from heat stroke. Prevention is the key to keeping your dog safe during the warmer summer weather.