Can Dogs Get Heat Stroke?

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We’ve all been out and about on a hot summer’s day and at some point felt the urge to just go and relax in the shade for a few minutes. But what you may not know is that this is your body’s way of telling you that you are approaching the risk threshold for developing a hyperthermia-type condition such as heatstroke. This problem arises when our bodies’ ability to dissipate heat is lesser than the amount of heat it is absorbing from the environment and/or generating via physical exertion. For this reason, it is not unusual to see heat injuries in athletes such as endurance runners, who must undergo sustained physical activity in sometimes extremely hot conditions.

Can Dogs Get Heat Stroke?

YES!

All animals have the potential to develop heatstroke and though some are particularly well suited to living and exerting themselves in hot climates, even they have limits. If your dog starts to display symptoms of heatstroke, it is imperative to seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

Does My Dog Have Heat Stroke?

You can clearly identify the condition in your pet if they start to exhibit symptoms such as a noticeably raised body temperature in conjunction with a rapid rate of panting and a loss of coordination when moving. You may also see the tongue turning bright red due to increased blood flow, as well as the presence of thick saliva and seemingly dry lips or nose. In severe cases, it is not unusual for a dog to experience vomiting and diarrhea or even convulsions. These signs typically occur as a result of the dog’s raised body temperature affecting the proper production and function of the enzymes responsible for regulating the functions of its major organs. This means that if the condition is allowed to persist, the dog is placed at risk of serious damage to its health, with heatstroke proving lethal in many circumstances. To diagnose the problem, a vet will usually only have to perform a cursory physical examination, as the symptoms themselves are extremely distinctive.

For more information pertaining to this topic, you can visit our condition guide: Heat Stroke in Dogs.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Heatstroke?

Because of the fact that heatstroke is almost always down to the temperature of the dog’s immediate environment, removing the animal from a hot locale (such as a parked car) is one of the first steps to take. You should also make sure that the animal is kept cool and provided with plenty of water in order to re-hydrate their body. A vet will follow a similar procedure, as their objective will be to lower the animal’s body temperature as fast as possible. Because of this, they will usually immerse the dog in a cold bath and pay close attention to their core temperature. As hydration is another key component of curing heat stroke, the vet may start the animal on ‘fluid therapy’, whereby an intravenous drip is used to deliver fluids directly into the body, ensuring that they start to have an effect as fast as possible. Following treatment, it is not unusual for the vet to perform blood tests to make sure that there is no evidence of serious organ damage present.

The dog will be able to return home after a brief period of observation, but you should keep in mind that they will be in a severely weakened state and so must be left to rest and regain their strength in the wake of the ordeal. Heatstroke can have a range of effects on the body depending on its severity, so follow-up treatment may be required.

In order to hear accounts of dealing with heat stroke from dog owners themselves and to consult directly with one of our in-house veterinarians, don’t hesitate to visit our condition guide at Heat Stroke in Dogs.

How is Heat Stroke Similar in Dogs, Humans and Other Animals?

Whilst all animals will react to a health condition in a certain way, there are some surprising similarities in the way that different species deal with heatstroke.

  • Despite the discrepancies in physiology between humans and dogs, one of the major contributing factors to heat stroke in both species is dehydration. This is because hot temperatures cause humans to lose water in the form of sweat and dogs to lose it in the form of saliva.

  • Humans that are suffering from the condition will oftentimes appear delirious or otherwise confused when trying to interact with others. Dogs will also become disoriented and may even require help with walking in a straight line.

  • Dehydration plays a major role in the development of this condition for all animals. By giving the dog copious amounts of water as soon as the symptoms of heat exhaustion present themselves, you can prevent the problem from turning into full-blown heat stroke.

How is Heat Stroke Different in Dogs, Humans and Other Animals?

Despite the similarities that can be found in cases of heat stroke between various species, there are still significant differences in the way that the condition affects certain animals.

  • Due to their lesser ability to dissipate heat and cool down their body (primarily due to their fur coats and lack of sweat glands), dogs are far more likely to suffer from heat injuries than animals possessing short (or no) fur and sweat glands, such as human beings.

  • Many species of animal are specially adapted to easily dissipate excess heat. Elephants, for instance, have large ears that can have their levels of blood flow increased in order to lower the animal’s temperature in case of emergencies. Most dogs, meanwhile, are not as fortunate and must modify their behavior in order to better survive harsh climates.

  • Some animals, such as cats, have localized concentrations of sweat glands on certain points of their bodies (such as the paws). This may lead to them becoming even more sensitive to environmental temperatures than dogs, as they try to seek out cooler surfaces to walk on.

Case Study

On a hot summer’s day, a long-haired variety of mountain dog is observed by its owner to be acting somewhat erratically. The animal has started to appear dizzy and unbalanced during a midday walk and is now lying in a patch of shade and unwilling to move. The dog refuses food that the owner offers in an attempt to boost its energy and stares into space, breathing heavily. Noticing the animal’s dry nose and mouth, the owner fears that something is seriously wrong and takes the animal to the local vet clinic. Once there, the vet confirms the symptoms of dehydration and attaches an intravenous drip to the dog, allowing fluids to be fed directly into its system. A trough is then filled with ice water and the animal is lowered in, bringing down its high temperature. After a little while, the dog becomes more animated and is willing to eat and drink by itself. After being kept overnight for observation, the animal is released back to their owner the next day.