A heatstroke is an emergency and all dog owners should familiarize themselves with the symptoms of what to do.
While hyperthermia and overheating can effect all dogs, some are at an even higher risk including older dogs, puppies, over weight and dogs with flat, pushed in faces or otherwise known as brachecephalic dogs.
These breeds would include Boxers, Pugs, Bull Dogs, Boston Terriers, Pekingese and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. However, any dog or breed can experience a heat stroke and have difficulty when the weather is hot and humid.
A dog’s normal body temperature is 101-102 degrees. When a dog’s rectal temperature is at 104 degrees, you should act immediately. Should that temperature rise to 106 degrees, the situation is critical and considered an immediate EMERGENCY. Keep in mind that rectal thermometers typically only read up to 108 degrees and for a dog suffering from a heat stroke, their body temperature could reach 110 degrees or higher.
Once the temperature rises to 106, the pet may go into shock and there is a chance of brain and organ damage. If the temperature is above 106 degrees, dogs can develop a condition where the blood clotting system breaks down (disseminated intravascular coagulation). They will die without immediate first aid and veterinary care.
Symptoms of Moderate Heatstroke
- Panting heavily
- Heavy saliva followed by dry gums
- Possible Bleeding
What To Do For a Moderate Heatstroke (104-106 degrees)
- First, get your dog to cool area. You will need to take his temperature with a rectal thermometer to determine what his body temperature is. Lubricate the thermometer with a petroleum jelly such as Vasoline. If his temperature reads between 104-106 degrees then he has had a moderate heatstroke.
- It’s important to try and reduce his body temperature so take him inside to an air conditioned area, or place a fan in front of him. Place cold, wet towels around your dog and place ice packs under his armpits and in his groin area. You can also hose him down outside in a shaded area or place him in a tub with cold water.
- Provide cold water or give ice cubes.
- Once his body temperature reaches 103 degrees Fahrenheit, stop the cooling process.
- Monitor his temperature every 10 minutes to make sure he’s recovering. Pets who start out with a temperature of 106 degrees Fahrenheit or below typically recover rapidly.
For information on additional emergency situations, click here.
Symptoms of a SEVERE Heatstroke
- While gums and tongue that are bright red in color can indicate a moderate heat stroke, gums that are gray or pale are signs of a severe heat stroke (shock) requiring IMMEDIATE VETERINARY CARE.
- Shallow breathing attempts and eventually slowed or absent breathing
- Diarrhea which may include blood
- Can fall into a coma once the brain swells
- Bloody nose
What To Do For a Severe Heatstroke (106 or Above)
- If your dog had a severe heat stroke (106 degrees or above) and your vet is within 5 minutes, call and tell them how high your dog’s body temperature is and that you’re coming in IMMEDIATELY. It helps to have someone else there to help you on the way. Take some rubbing alcohol and as much ice as you can. Keep the car cool and keep your dog close to the vent. Have the other person apply rubbing alcohol and ice to your dog’s groin and armpits.
- If your vet is further away than 5 minutes, you need to follow another plan. If the dog is conscious, you need to lower his body temperature to at least 106 degrees before leaving for the vet.
- Keep the dog cool. Use a hose or shower, or a tub filled with cold water. You need to make sure that his body temperature is dropping by checking his temperature every 5 minutes. Place a cold, wet cloth behind your dog’s head and neck. Then place a bag of frozen veggies on top of the cloth. This reduces the heat in the brain and prevents swelling which could cause death.
- Let her drink as much as she wants. Provide either cold water, Pedialyte or Gatorade to rehydrate the dog.
- Look for symptoms of shock. A heatstroke in dogs (severe heat stroke) can cause shock. If your dog’s temperature is above 104 degrees, DO NOT wrap him in a blanket while traveling to the vet.
However, if your dog is in shock and you have managed to reduce his body temperature to less than 100 degrees, wrap him in a blanket for the trip to the hospital. With shock, the blood sugar levels may be low and raising the blood sugar levels with a little Karo syrup or honey can help. If you have time on your way out the door, take it with you and rub some on the gums.
- Artificial Respiration and CPR May Be Necessary
When a dog has a severe heatstroke and goes into shock, he can stop breathing. It can also cause the throat to swell and close.While holding your dog’s mouth closed, place your mouth over his nose and exhale two quick breaths while focusing to see if his chest expands with air. Continue to give 15-20 breaths a minute or until he starts to breath on his own.
- If your dog’s heart has stopped, and you need additional help with CPR, here’s more instructions.