Can Dogs Get Sunstroke?

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When it's hot, it’s hot. Mirages float up in hazy lines above the concrete. Dogs pant, while people sweat the day away. It doesn’t matter if you are a human or an animal, there is no denying that the heat can affect the way a body runs, but can a dog get sunstroke?


In humans, sunstroke, also known as heat stroke, is when the body reaches a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Wowza! That is hot! At this point, your body will simply quit working because it is overheated. In serious cases, if left untreated, sunstroke can do irreversible damage to your organs, and even cause death.

Can Dogs Get Sunstroke?

YES!

Dogs can absolutely get sunstroke! In fact, it is more common than you think. Many working dogs, such as cattle dogs, are highly susceptible to sunstroke because they are so driven to work, they do not stop unless their human intervenes. Many owners of indoor dogs might not worry that sunstroke is an issue, but if your dog’s body is not accustomed to high temperatures, the heat can bother them more quickly and to a greater extent than you might think.

Does My Dog Have Sunstroke?

There are several ways that you can tell if your dog has sunstroke or not. Has your dog had shade or proper ventilation? Has your dog been exercising excessively in an extreme heat situation? Here are several symptoms of sunstroke:

  • Excessive panting

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Excessive salivation

  • Foaming at the mouth

  • Nose bleeds

  • Bright red gum color

  • Skin that feels hot to the touch

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Weakness

  • Head tremors

  • Seizures

  • Collapse

If you suspect that your dog is suffering from sunstroke, immediately seek a veterinarian. This can be a very dangerous condition in dogs.

Causes

There can be many causes leading to your dog’s sunstroke. Some dogs are more predisposed to heat stroke such as dogs who suffer from:

Environmental factors also play a huge role in sunstroke in dogs. Here are a few causes that all pet owners should be aware of in the heat of summer. Try to avoid the following:

  • Hot humid climate

  • Lack of shade

  • Being kept in an area with poor ventilation

  • Inadequate cooling-off after exercise

  • Excessive exercise in a hot climate

  • No access to water

Sometimes, sunstroke can be a combination of several of these factors. For instance, your dog’s obesity, combined with a lack of shade could speed up the process of sunstroke.

Diagnosis

To diagnose sunstroke, the easier and fastest way for your vet to check your pet is to give them a rectal temperature reading. They can also take samples of urine and blood.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Sunstroke?

This situation can be dangerous, and you should get your dog to a vet as soon as possible. Your vet could use a number of different treatments, or a combination of treatments such as:

  • Cooling therapies

  • Medications, IV’s

  • Fluid therapy


If you are unable to make to the veterinarian right away, here are a few steps you can take in an emergency situation:

  • Place a fan on your dog

  • Slowly bring your dog’s temperature back down

  • Place a wet towel under your dog

  • Put rubbing alcohol on your dog’s paws (this naturally draws out heat)

Depending on the time spent in the heat, and the time it takes you to get your dog to the vet, it is possible for your dog to have a full recovery, although they will always be more susceptible to this condition from here on out.

For a more in-depth description of sunstroke in dogs, read more at: Heat Stroke in Dogs.

How Is Sunstroke Similar in Dogs and Humans?

This condition is very similar in dogs and humans. The symptoms, causes, and diagnosis and almost identical. No species is immune to extreme heat and weather conditions.

How Is Sunstroke Different in Dogs and Humans?

The major difference between sunstroke in dogs and in humans is that a dog needs its owners help to prevent this. Your dog cannot let itself out of the car if it gets too hot. If it is a working dog, it’s natural instinct is to work until it physically cannot anymore. Preventing sunstroke in dogs is a major responsibility for the pet owner. Be cautious of how much heat your dog can take.

In humans, sunstroke is considered to be at 104 degrees Fahrenheit, while a dog is diagnosed with this condition at 105.8 degrees.

Case Study

A dog came into the clinic with symptoms of sunstroke, such as vomiting, faintness, and excessive panting. The case veterinarian took a rectal temperature reading and the dog’s temperature was 106.5, almost 1 degree over the level of hyperthermia. The dog had been playing with another dog in the hot sun and did not have access to water. The veterinarian pushed fluids through an IV, and slowly brought the dog’s temperature down using several cooling methods. The dog’s temperature slowly came down.

The dog was hospitalized for 48 hours, and was evaluated again in one week. The dog made a full recovery, although the owner will have to make sure the dog is separated from the other dog in extreme heat and has an unlimited amount of water.