Heat Stroke

Hot Hot Hot!


With the end of summer drawing near, we may be trying to take advantage of every sunny day we have left, but the heat can be too much for our pets. Heat Exhaustion, and its more severe cousin, Heat Stroke, is surprisingly most common in the very beginning and very end of the summer. Relief from the oppressive heat can lull pet owners into a false sense of security, mistakenly leaving pets outside or in cars for too long. Read on for information about the signs and symptoms, as well as treatment and prevention of heat exhaustion.

It is possible for humans to “get too much sun” but we have the ability to eliminate heat through our sweat glands. Dogs don’t have this ability, with minimal sweat glands located only in their paw pads. Instead to release heat, they pant. If left in a hot car or outside without enough shade, panting is insufficient. Remember, the temperature outside does not have to be high for this to occur. High humidity in lower temperatures can cause discomfort, and even in outside temperatures of 70 degrees, a car or enclosed space can reach upwards of 120 degrees in minutes.

These are the signs of heat exhaustion:
  • Excessive panting
  • Enlarged tongue hanging out of mouth
  • Visible discomfort
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Gums and tongue turn blue or BRIGHT red
  • Less responsive
  • Glazed eyes
  • Excessive drool
  • Rapid heartrate
  • Dizziness or lack of coordination
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Temperature higher than 103 degrees F (Higher than 106 indicates heat stroke)
In very severe cases:
  • Unconsciousness
  • Collapsing
  • Convulsions
  • Organ failure
  • Heart stops

If you suspect your dog has heat exhaustion or heat stroke, move him to a cooler, shaded area. Run a bathtub or a garden hose of cool (NOT COLD) water over the whole body, especially the head and neck. Put cool, wet towels over the neck, in the armpits and behind back legs and a cold pack on the head. DO NOT put ice or freezing water on your pet. Keep his head elevated to prevent aspiration pneumonia, massage the legs to improve circulation and prevent shock, and spray rubbing alcohol on the bottoms of the feet, in between the paw pads. Make water available, but do not force him to drink. Add a pinch of salt to the drinking water to replace minerals that were lost. Continue to cool him down until his temperature is below 103 degrees.

Keep in mind that certain dogs are more prone to heat exhaustion than others.
  • Long or thick fur
  • Brachycephalic breeds – flat face, short nose (boxer, bulldog, pugs, boston terriers, pekingese, etc.)
  • Obese
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Very old or very young
  • Active, working, hunting, farming dogs
IMPORTANT: Even if you are able to cool your dog down to normal body temperature, take him to your veterinarian immediately to check for shock and other invisible internal injuries that may have occurred.
DISCLAIMER: Any information provided on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Generalized cases and scenarios do not apply to every pet. Always check with your own veterinarian before using any information or advice provided here, or trying any treatments on your own. Any comments or responses made on this blog do not constitute a valid client-patient-doctor relationship. Relying on information provided by this site is solely at our own risk.