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Hot Dogs Belong On The Grill: Heat Stroke In Dogs

heat stroke in dogs

As temperatures rise, pets, including dogs who love to play outdoors, are at higher risk for heat stroke. With our hot summer season ahead in Austin, play it safe, prevent heat stroke and know its signs and when to seek medical attention for your beloved pet.

What is Heat Stroke and How Do Dogs Get It?

Classic heat stroke in dogs occurs with exposure to high temperatures – something we’re familiar with in Austin. When a dog has a spike in body temperature the extreme heat stress can both impair breathing and injure organs. The condition can be fatal if left untreated.

Signs that Your Dog May Have Heat Stroke

There are many signs that can point to heat exhaustion or heat stroke in dogs, including excessive panting, difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse. Symptoms can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit, along with an elevated body temperature of over 104°F. Dogs have very few sweat glands and lots of fur, so they can become overheated very quickly.

Which Types of Dogs are Most Susceptible to Heat Stroke?

Older dogs and those with a dark or dense hair coat are especially prone to heat stroke. Dogs like pugs with flat faces (short muzzles) cannot pant as effectively. These characteristics, as well as things like being elderly, overweight, and with heart and/or lung diseases put dogs at higher risk for heatstroke.

How Hot is Hot? Heat Stroke and Outdoor Temperatures

The rule of thumb is to keep your dog inside during the hottest part of the day. For us in Austin, the summer sun heats us up early, so walking and playing before 9:00 a.m. and the thermometer hitting 90°F is your safest plan.  

Of note, car temperatures can be more than 40 degrees higher than outside temperatures. When it is 80°F in the early morning in Austin, parked car temperatures can rise to 99°F in just 10 minutes, even with windows left open. Keep your dog safe and comfortable in your air conditioned home.

How Do I Prevent Heat Stroke in My Dog?

During periods of hot and/or humid weather and when dogs are new to Austin’s extreme heat (for up to the first two months), avoid long periods of running and playing with them outside while they fully acclimate to summer temperatures.

Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of fresh, clean water when it is hot or humid outdoors. When outdoors, they need a cool, shady place to get out of the sun.

Again, dogs should never be left in parked cars for any amount of time.

What is the Best Treatment for Heat Stroke?

If signs of heatstroke are present, your dog should be immediately cooled to a rectal temperature of 103.5°F.

Start by spraying your dog with lukewarm water, draping a cold, wet towel over the dog, and placing the dog in front of a fan. Ice packs can also be placed on the neck region but they should be removed if the dog starts shivering or after 20 minutes of cooling with ice. Give you dog lots of cool water if tolerated.  

“If your dog is having trouble breathing and has a temperature of 105° F or higher, they are in distress and at risk for organ damage,” according to Dr. Audrey  Wystrach.

If your dog’s temperature remains high and they continue to experience trouble breathing, take the dog to a veterinarian on an emergency basis. Heat stroke can be life threatening.

Your veterinarian can administer refrigerated IV fluids that can improve internal cooling and help restore blood flow to vital organs and reduce further complications. Upon arrival, your dog’s airway will be checked for any upper airway obstruction and dogs that are having difficulty breathing might require oxygen therapy to breathe properly.

As Austin’s hottest season approaches, it’s the perfect time to come in for a checkup – particularly if you have short-snouted dog breed that’s susceptible to heat stroke. We make it easy to schedule an appointment to be sure your dog is ready to enjoy an Austin summer!

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