When you think about it, there's a lot we take for granted as dog owners. But when it comes to heat stress—whether from the sun or an indoor space that's too hot—we need to be extra vigilant. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion in dogs can happen quickly if you're not careful, so understanding the signs of each and what you can do to keep your dog cool is critical.
Heat Stroke in Dogs
Heat stroke is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening for your dog. The condition occurs when the body's ability to regulate its temperature becomes impaired and the dog's core temperature rises to dangerous levels.
It is caused by exposure to high temperatures, which includes summer heat waves or being left in the sun on a hot day with no shade or access to water. This is also why dogs left in cars on even moderately warm days are in serious danger.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke in Dogs
Your dog may display the following symptoms if they have heat stroke:
- Increased respiration rate
- Increased heart rate
- Increased body temperature (above 105 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Increased thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhea or excessive panting.
The first signs of heat stroke in dogs are usually excessive panting, drooling,drooling or vomiting. Your dog may also have difficulty breathing due to the heat and may collapse.
These are all signs of dehydration or a medical emergency. If your dog is experiencing these symptoms, you should contact your veterinarian immediately for treatment options.
Heat stroke is a common condition in dogs and can be fatal if left untreated, so it's important to know how to treat this condition.
Prevent Heat Stroke in Dogs
To prevent heat stroke in dogs, you should provide shade, water, and cool surfaces. You should also avoid excessive exercise in the heat, especially if you have a brachycephalic (short-faced) dog breed.
If your dog is panting or seems uncomfortable at all due to the weather, check his rectal temperature with a thermometer (either digital or non-digital). If it's over 105 degrees Fahrenheit, call a veterinarian immediately—heat stroke can happen quickly.
Heat Stroke vs. Heat Exhaustion in Dogs
Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness that occurs when your dog’s body temperature rises too high. It’s a milder form of heat stroke, but can still be deadly if not treated quickly.
Heat exhaustion usually only affects dogs who are already dehydrated or have been exercising heavily in the heat for an extended period of time.
The main difference between the two conditions is that while dogs with heat exhaustion still have their mental faculties intact, those with severe cases of heat stroke will become disoriented and may even fall unconscious.
If you suspect your dog may be suffering from heat exhaustion rather than a full-blown heat stroke, take him or her indoors immediately for some much-needed rest and hydration.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are both dangerous conditions that can quickly lead to serious problems if not immediately treated.
Heat exhaustion is a precursor to dog heat stroke, but it's often difficult for owners to determine if their dog has moved from one state of distress into another. If you think your dog could be suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, it's best to play it safe by getting him cooled off as soon as possible.
The signs and symptoms of both conditions include:
- Heavy panting or difficulty breathing;
- Lethargy (not wanting to move);
- Vomiting; Diarrhea; Dizziness; Weakness/collapse
If you think your dog is experiencing heat stroke, it's important to get them to the vet immediately. They may be able to treat your dog by placing an ice pack on their body and administering fluids intravenously.
Specific Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs
Here are some of the symptoms of heat exhaustion in dogs:
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid heartbeat, which may be irregular or rapid breathing
- Confusion, weakness, lethargy, appearing drunk (uncoordinated gait) and vomiting
These symptoms usually develop within three hours of being exposed to hot weather. A dog with heat exhaustion will often seek shade and rest. If you think your pet has developed heat exhaustion and is showing these signs, take him inside immediately (or into an air-conditioned car) to cool down.
How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion in Dogs
Heat exhaustion is a health condition that occurs when your dog becomes overheated. The body can't cool itself down properly, and the dog's temperature rises to dangerous levels, leading to organ failure and death if left untreated. To prevent heat exhaustion, keep your dog cool by:
- Keeping him wet by bathing him with water or applying an ice pack
- Keeping his shelter cool and dry
- Feeding small meals throughout the day instead of one large meal
- Avoiding strenuous exercise as it causes internal heat production due to increased muscle activity
Heat exhaustion is a serious health condition that occurs when your dog becomes overheated. The body can't cool itself down properly, and the dog's temperature rises to dangerous levels, leading to organ failure and death if left untreated.
Brachycephalic Dog Breeds are More Prone to Heat Stroke
Brachycephalic dog breeds are more likely to suffer from heat stroke than other breeds. They have a narrow skull, which means that their nostrils are very close together and it's difficult for them to breathe. That makes them more likely to overheat in warmer weather.
Brachycephalic dogs are a group of dog breeds that have short, pushed-in faces. They're known for having narrow nostrils and chests, which can make it difficult for them to breathe. Brachycephalic dogs include pugs, French bulldogs, Boston terriers, shih tzus, Pekingese and bulldogs.
If you see your brachycephalic dog panting heavily or drooling excessively, bring them inside or into the shade so they can cool down. If you don't have air conditioning, try putting a fan on them (but don't point it directly at their face).
If you're going on a walk with a brachycephalic dog breed in hot weather, make sure they have plenty of water and take frequent breaks so they can rest in the shade.
Contact Your Veterinarian with Concerns
If you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s symptoms, it’s best to speak with a veterinarian as soon as possible. Dog heat stroke treatment will be most effective the sooner your dog is taken in for care.
If you notice that your pet is showing signs of heat stress, take them to an animal hospital immediately! It’s important to remember that your dog might not be able to tell you when they are feeling ill or uncomfortable, so it’s up to us humans to keep an eye out and make sure they are safe at all times.
Pathophysiology of heat stroke in dogs
Flat-faced dogs such as bulldogs, French bulldogs and pugs at increased risk of heat stroke
Incidence and risk factors for heat-related illness (heatstroke) in dogs