Preventing and Treating Heatstroke in Dogs

Everyone knows dogs and hot cars don’t mix, and that you should never leave your dog in the car on a warm day, even parked in the shade with the windows open. Dogs can also get overheated in the car in cold weather if the car is parked in direct sunlight with the heater running. In the heat of summer, dogs are susceptible to heatstroke in and around the house as well, especially if they are flat-nosed, elderly, or overweight.

What is Heatstroke?

Dogs eliminate body heat primarily through panting, and also through sweat glands in their paw pads. When it’s too hot, these methods become ineffective and the dog’s body temperature rises dangerously high. Dogs are in danger of heatstroke when their body temperature gets to 105 degrees. Heatstroke can be fatal if their temperature is not brought down.


Signs of Heatstroke

Signs of moderate heatstroke include panting, glazed eyes, foaming at the mouth, bright red gums, and increased heart rate. Signs of severe heatstroke are disorientation, collapse, vomiting, diarrhea, and pale gums. Dogs with life-threatening heatstroke will fall into a coma and stop breathing.


Treating Heatstroke

Remove your dog from the heat, lay her down on a cool surface (like a tile floor) and begin cooling her with cool (but not freezing cold) water. Cool your dog’s body with a hose, or put her in a kiddie pool or bathtub. Pour cool water directly on your dog. You can also cover her with a wet towel and keep re-wetting it with cool water. Sponge the head and face with cool water, being careful not to get it in the mouth and nose. A dog’s brain can swell with heatstroke, so you can tie a bag of frozen vegetables to her head with a cloth. Drinking water should be cool in temperature, with a tiny amount of salt in it to replenish lost sodium. Take your dog’s temperature with a rectal thermometer and keep cooling her down until her body temperature falls below 103 degrees.


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  • Aaron Seminoff
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