Most people have either experienced heat stroke themselves, or know someone that has. Heat stroke is a condition where the body’s temperature becomes elevated to a dangerous level, damaging organs and rendering the body incapable of lowering that temperature on its own.
This risk of heat stroke is highest in warm weather—particularly warm, sunny weather where individuals are exposed to the heat for long periods of time, and especially when they’re active and generating their own body heat in a warm environment.
Heat stroke can sneak up on you quickly, and overheating can quickly become a medical emergency. But humans aren’t the only type of create susceptible to heat stroke. If you’re worried about your dog developing heat stroke, read on for important facts and tips that will help you address heat stroke and prevent it in the future.
Can Dogs Get Heat Stroke?
Like humans, dogs are susceptible to heat stroke when their bodies get overheated. But dogs actually face more danger when overheated because of the cooling mechanisms in their body.
Humans have excellent cooling mechanisms, including the ability to sweat, which makes it easier for the body to lower its temperature when it becomes overheated. Dogs primarily cool their bodies by panting, which is less efficient than sweating. Since it takes longer for dogs to cool down their bodies, elevated temperatures pose an even greater risk of heat stroke. This is why owners must be vigilant in monitoring for signs of overheating in their dogs.
Does My Dog Have Heat Exhaustion?
Every dog owner should know how to spot the symptoms of heat exhaustion in dogs. The most common symptoms include:
- Warm paws and nose
- Dry nose
- An elevated heart rate
- Doesn’t respond to commands
In more serious cases, dogs may also develop blood in their mouth or stool, muscle spasms, and seizures.
Remember that even mild heat exhaustion in dogs can quickly develop into an urgent medical emergency. Don’t underestimate your dog’s symptoms of heat stroke, and be prepared to take action quickly to help them cool their body down.
What’s the Difference Between Heat Stroke vs. Heat Exhaustion in Dogs?
While these two terms may circulate among dog owners and even veterinary professionals, heat stroke and heat exhaustion are both referring to the same condition, which is typically marked by excessive body heat measuring around 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
A more appropriate alternative term to heat stroke is heat stress, which refers to a dog that is exhibiting all signs of overheating—including warm paws, panting, and low energy—but which has not yet crossed the internal heat threshold that marks heat stroke.
Heat stress, in other words, is more common and not necessarily a danger to the dog, provided the dog can be cooled down soon before complications develop. Heat stroke or heat exhaustion is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment, including a possible visit to a local vet or pet emergency room.
How to Help a Dog With Heat Exhaustion
The best way to aid a dog’s heat exhaustion recovery is to aid their body in cooling down. Get your dog out of the sun and into a space with good air circulation, if not a space that is air-conditioned. Give your dog access to water, and use a damp cloth to wipe down common hot spots on the body, such as the neck and belly. Use cool but not cold water, as ice-cold water can shock your dog and complicate their recovery.
If symptoms don’t improve quickly, call your vet or visit a local animal hospital. If you have a rectal thermometer on hand, check your dog’s temperature. A body temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher is a medical emergency: call or visit your vet as soon as possible.
Long-Term Effects of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs
If heat stroke is promptly addressed, your dog may recovery without any lingering long-term complications. In some serious cases, heat exhaustion can have a lasting effect that includes brain damage or other organ damage resulting from excessive heat, even if your dog survives their bout of heat stroke.
While these risks are rare, they should be taken seriously. An incident of heat stroke may also increase your dog’s risk of developing heat stroke in the future, so dog owners should be eager to keep the risk of this condition low.
While heat exhaustion can be a life-threatening condition for your dog, owners can play a large role in prevention by being mindful of a dog’s exposure to sun and heat, providing access to shade and water, and keeping a close eye on your dog’s behaviors. When it comes to heat stroke, prevention is always much easier than treatment—and it will be far less scary for you and your dog.