Photo by Steshka Willems
Spotting and Treating Heat Stroke in Dogs
The Australian climate is known for its extreme heat and, just like us, dogs can find hot weather difficult. Although heat stroke can occur in any weather conditions, the hot temperatures can increase the likelihood of your dog succumbing to it. Knowing the signs of heat stroke in dogs, including how to spot a mild case, can help make sure your dog stays healthy and can enjoy the Australian summer.
What is heat stroke?
Heat stroke occurs when your dog’s core body temperature is too high, and can present in two ways, including:
• Classic heat stroke - This occurs when your pet overheats due to their environment.
• Exertional heat stroke - This occurs when your pet overheats due to too much exertion and exercise.
Heat stroke can occur during all types of weather so it’s important to keep an eye on your dogs temperature and make sure they don’t overheat. Although dogs can usually cool themselves down by panting, they particularly struggle to keep themselves cool when humidity reaches over 80%.
Dogs can be more susceptible to heat stroke if they are:
• extremely old or young
• overweight or obese
• a breed with a thicker or longer coat
• a larger breed
• a working breed
• a breed with a short, flat nose such as pugs, bulldogs and Pekingnese (these breeds, called brachycephalic, are 146% more likely to suffer heat stroke due to insufficient airflow).
How to prevent your dog from getting heat stroke
To ensure your dog doesn’t overheat, on days that are hot and humid, avoid taking your dog for long walks, runs or strenuous exercise. If you can, opt for short walks on a lead and avoid exercising when the day is at its hottest. Make sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh water, ensure they have a cool, shaded area to rest in, and avoid leaving them in a parked car or inside a house that’s too hot.
Spotting heat stroke in dogs
Heat stroke in dogs can progress very quickly, so keep your eye out for symptoms, especially when the weather is at its hottest, and take your dog to a vet as soon as you suspect they have heat stroke.
Early signs your dog has heat stroke can include:
• elevated body temperature
• gum colour changing to dark red, pale, purple or blue
• pacing, restlessness or agitation
• struggling to breathe or panting excessively.
As your dog’s symptoms start to worsen, they may:
• vomit or have diarrhoea
• get dizzy and struggle to walk in a straight line
• collapse or experience lethargy
• tremor or shake
• experience seizures
• fall unconscious.
How to treat heat stroke in dogs
Remove your dog from the hot environment and gradually lower their temperature by cooling them with a hosepipe or bucket, but avoid covering them with wet towels as this will trap the heat.. You could also train a fan on them, once they’ve been dampened. If the pet is able, encourage them to drink water, as this will help lower their temperature. Do not force a pet to drink as they may aspirate the water.
When to see your vet
If your dog is showing severe symptoms of heat stroke, immediately take them to the vet as this is an emergency. Even if your dog has mild symptoms of heat stroke and looks like they’re starting to recover it’s still important to take them to the vet. To give your dog the best possible chance of recovering from heat stroke, be sure to act as fast as you can. Even if you only suspect your dog has heat stroke, it’s better to be on the safe side, as heat stroke can cause multiple organ failure and, if left untreated, it’s rare for a dog to recover.
How vets treat heat stroke
Your vet may decide that your dog needs emergency treatment, which can include:
• Intravenous fluids to cool the body internally and treat dehydration
• Oxygen therapy
• Emergency cooling
• Anaesthesia and/or airway intubation
• Cardiac medications
• Pain relief
Your vet may also run blood tests to assess how severely dehydrated your dog is. Your dog may require ongoing monitoring and treatment. There’s lots to enjoy about the Australian climate, but its extreme heat can be hard on our pets, so it’s important to keep a close eye on them and keep them cool and healthy in the hot temperatures. For more information on taking care of your pet, visit our petcare blog.
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