What is Heat Stroke in Dogs?

Severe illness characterized by hyperthermia greater than 105.8 degrees F and CNS (Central Nervous System) abnormalities.

Causes of Heat Induced Illness in Dogs:

  • Exposure to hot environments
    • Examples: Leaving a dog in a hot car, leaving a dog in a crate without adequate ventilation, leaving a dog in a hot environment without access to water
  • During strenuous physical exercise under heat stress
    • Examples: Military working dogs, dogs that are overly playful, or in some cases only a few minutes of walking in high heat and/or humidity 
  • Predisposing patient factors such as breed (brachycephalic breeds such as English Bulldogs, or large breeds such as Golden Retrievers), older age, obesity, and underlying medical conditions

Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs:

  • Excessive panting and signs of discomfort indicate overheating in dogs.
  • A dog overheating may also be unable or unwilling to move around. 
  • Other signs of heat stroke in dogs include drooling, reddened gums, vomiting, diarrhea, mental dullness or loss of consciousness, uncoordinated movement, and collapse.

How to Immediately Care for Dogs Showing Signs: 

  1. Cool your dog off IMMEDIATELY by soaking their entire body with water from a hose or shower. If this is not possible, then bring them immediately to the ER. 
  2. Get them to the emergency room IMMEDIATELY. 
  3. While in the car on the way to the ER, turn the AC on high, and/or open the windows all the way to allow them to cool by evaporation (if you soaked them in water) or by convection from the air passing over their body.

Preventing Heat Stroke in Dogs: 

  • Take care not to expose your dog to hot and humid conditions, especially if they have a predisposition to heat stroke, and especially early in the summer when they are not yet acclimated to the heat.
  • Do not leave dogs in cars – even with windows open – heat stroke can happen.
  • When outdoors, always make sure they are in areas that are well ventilated with lots of shade and access to cold water to drink.
  • Walk your dog in cool mornings and late afternoons / early evenings. 

Considered the “Cedars-Sinai” for premier animal care, MASH is a 24-hour specialty and emergency animal hospital offering veterinary Surgery, Internal Medicine, Emergency and Critical Care, Dermatology, Oncology,Nutrition, and Dentistry. Currently, MASH is implementing safe drop-off protocols for patients, and not turning away any pets that come from COVID-19 positive families. For more info on their emergency procedures, click HERE.

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