Signs and Symptoms of a Dog Who Has Heatstroke 

When dogs become overheated it can result in a serious medical problem known as heatstroke.  This condition can come on quickly and result in severe illness or even death. 

When dogs become overheated it can result in a serious medical problem known as heatstroke.  This condition can come on quickly and result in severe illness or even death.  Knowing how to  prevent heatstroke and what the signs and symptoms of a dog who has heatstroke are when you are out with your doggo, can make a walk, a play day, or a day at the beach a great experience for everyone.

German Shepard Laying in the grass in the sun
Dogs playing on the sun should be monitored for signs and symptoms of Heatstroke.
Photo by M. Shea

I am neither a veterinarian nor a medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post. All medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.

Early Warning Signs That Your Dog is Overheating

When a dog is out on a hot day or even in a hot indoor environment, he will begin to show signs of attempting to cool down.  These signs can also appear after exercising or after an intense play session.  The most recognizable visible symptoms are panting and getting a drink, but there are times when the heat is more intense that we expect and your dog may develop more serious symptoms. If you see any of the following symptoms, you must immediately take precautions to cool your dog down: 

  • Panting excessively
  • Drooling/frothing
  • Laying on or searching for cool areas
  • Rapid Heartbeat

Extreme Symptoms of A dog Who is Too Hot

Dogs can overheat in a matter of only a few minutes.  They may seem like they are doing fine while walking or playing, bit suddenly your dog appears to be unwell. If your dog is experiencing any of the visible signs listed below, take her to the vet immediately. 

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargic
  • Stumbling/difficulty walking
  • Seizures
  • Losing consciousness
  • Death 

A dog who is experiencing VISIBLE signs of heatstroke may also have medical issues that are NOT VISIBLE, so a trip to the vet is highly recommended to be sure there are no internal medical repercussions of the overheating or heatstroke.

Video by: NBC Channel 12 News (YouTube)

What Happens if My Dog Gets Heatstroke?

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Dogs who develop heatstroke can develop further, more serious, medical issues.  In a severe case it could affect your dog’s kidneys (including kidney failure), brain, heart, and cause significant respiratory issues.  

How Does a Dog’s Body Cool Down Naturally?

Dogs do not have many sweat glands. Their bodies rely on only a few methods to bring their temperature down.  

  • Panting – when dogs pant the water in their mouth evaporates and cools them down.
  • Nose – Dogs sweat through their noses allowing them to release heat 
  • Feet – Dogs have sweat glands in their paws that help them to reduce their body temperature
  • Ears – A dog’s ears contain blood vessels that are close to the surface.  When the blood vessels dilate, it helps to cool the blood running through them.

It’s important to note that these natural methods are not very effective for cooling down quickly. They do not have the capacity to cool down a dog who is overheating and requires immediate temperature reduction.

What to Do If You Think Your Dog is Getting Too Hot:

If you see signs that your dog is getting too hot, there are ways to help her cool down before things get dangerous.  

  • You should bring the dog in or to a cooler place if you see signs of her becoming too hot.  Just a change to a shaded area or into a cool building will provide your dog with relief.
  • Provide plenty of drinking water. Cool water can help your dog to cool down from the inside. Do not force your dog to drink.  She will take water when she is ready.
  • Wet your dog with cool water (not too cold as this could be a shocking contrast)

Take your dog to the vet immediately to be sure there are no hidden side effects of overheating.

Prevention of Heat Stroke in Dogs

It is up to us, as responsible and caring pet owners, to provide a safe environment for our pups.  One of the most important safety concerns for dogs is to make sure they are protected from the elements. It is common for people to dress their dogs warmly in winter or to put booties on to protect their paws from the ice and snow, it is less obvious for us to see how our dogs need to be protected from the elements in the summer. While it is becoming more common for dog parents to check the temperature of the pavement before letting their dogs walk on it, it is also crucial that we take measures to protect our dogs from heatstroke.

Here are some important ways to prevent Heatstroke:

  • DON’T LEAVE YOUR DOG IN A CAR – EVER;  NOT EVEN FOR A FEW MINUTES
  • Keep dog groomed and well brushed to reduce heavy fur
  • Apply Sunscreen specially made for dogs
  • Keep away from concrete on hot days
  • Walk in shaded or cooler arrears
  • Walk early in the morning or later in the evening when it’s cooler
  • Provide shade at the beach (umbrellas, demi tents)
  • Offer a cooling pad for your dog to rest on
  • Make sure your home is at a safe temperature while you are away.
  • Keep dog crates away from windows in any season. The sun coming in through the window may cause a very hot environment that your dog cannot escape from when crated.

NOTE:  There are some dog breeds who are more susceptible to breathing issues when in the heat.  Knowing your dog’s natural limits should be taken into account before spending time outside in warm weather.

Summary

Heatstroke is a serious and dangerous condition.  Taking steps to prevent heat from harming your dog is crucial in all seasons and climates.  There are very simple methods of ensuring your dog’s safety while walking, playing, traveling or on an outing.  According to The Kennel Club, 1 in 7 dogs dogs who are treated for Heatstroke do not survive.  This statistic demonstrates the severity of the condition and the importance of prevention.

Suggested Reading:

Sources:

https://www.memphisveterinaryspecialists.com/site/blog-cordova/2019/11/25/dog-heat-stroke-symptoms-treatment-prevention

https://vcacanada.com/know-your-pet/heat-stroke-in-dogs

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