Recognizing Signs of Heat Stroke in Canines

Unlike humans, who sweat to regulate body temperature, dogs show distinct signs of excess body heat, and the dog days of summer can be dangerous to the family canines.  Before your four-legged friend overheats, it is vital to understand the signs of a heatstroke and ways to prevent it.  By recognizing the symptoms, you can change a severe health issue quickly.  Remember, heatstroke can occur in minutes.

Learn how to recognize the signs of heat stroke and continue to expand on preventative measures.

Heavy Panting: While dogs can dissipate body heat through their paw pads and nose, another primary means of cooling off is through panting.  You’ll need to listen carefully to the level of breathing and classifying it as normal or strenuous; then, assess the dog’s jaws.  Have they expanded from slightly opened to fully openmouthed with a swollen tongue, which may hang out from one side? Another indication is the coloring of the gums, which will change from pink to bright red. Damage to the cellular system and organs occur when the body’s temperature reaches the dangerous degree of 106.

Solution:  Immediately relocate your dog to shade if outdoors, or better yet, an air-conditioned room.  Access to cold water, whether it is a bowl of water or a child’s pool containing fresh water will eliminate a dog’s danger of developing heatstroke.  With a cloth, you can soak your dog’s feet or allow the water to run along the dog’s back.

Excessive Drooling:  Think what happens after a session of running and playing.  Your dog is panting and possessing a long string of saliva from the jowls.  During hot temperatures, drool is another sign your four-legged friend cannot cool off.

Appearing WeakYoung dogs, especially, may not know when to cease playing even on the brink of collapse.  A racing or irregular heartbeat, vomiting, stumbling, and attempting to lie down are clear symptoms.  While air conditioning and water will revitalize mild symptoms, act fast if your pet collapses.  Wetting down the coat with cool water will help regulate temperature; however, your dog will require immediate veterinary attention; therefore, go directly to the animal hospital or clinic.

Breeds Susceptible to Heat Stroke:  Be aware if your dog has a history of congenital disabilities or respiratory problems.  It is not just a problem in large to medium breeds such as Labradors and pit bulls, which often experience laryngeal paralysis, but smaller dogs, too, such as the Pomeranian and Yorkie.

  • Flat-faced breeds similar to pugs, bulldogs, and boxers often have difficulty breathing in hot and dry environments. Just because they are active does not mean they are not susceptible to heat stroke.
  • Obesity and indoor dogs are at risk.
  • Dark fur and excessive coats of fur are prone to absorb heat.

Preventing Heat Stroke: 

  1. NEVER leave a dog or other animal alone in a vehicle in warm weather. Temperatures can quickly reach over 120 degrees in minutes.  Even a window fully retracted will not make enough difference to prevent heat stroke.  Have a purpose in mind if you are traveling with your pet such as going directly to a friend’s house or animal clinic.  Similar to the act of warming up your vehicle in cold temperatures, consider the courtesy of allowing your car to run with the air conditioner minutes before your dog enters.
  2. Avoid exercise on warm days; instead, take walks on cool mornings.
  3. Consider shaving your furry friend.
  4. Keep a small child’s pool in the shade, and full of fresh, clean water. Access to water and wetting the dog’s paws will alleviate rising body temperatures.
  5. Invest in a sunshade or dig several feet below the ground to offer areas where outdoor dogs can be comfortable during the summer.
  6. Consider changing your dog’s nutrition habits to promote a healthy weight. Canned foods can boost moisture content and hydration levels.

Veterinary Care

A proactive measure is to consider classifying your vet’s phone number among your favorites. Even if your vet is at a great distance, verbal recommendations and fast action can help your pet if your four-legged friend exhibits minor symptoms.  Promote preventative care, and have a safe summer with your family dog!


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