You are here
Heat stroke in dogs?
Dogs pant to cool off, and this is not very efficient or successful in hot weather. It can be even more of a problem if the dog is overweight (the extra fat acts like thick insulation), is a dark color (absorbs heat more readily from the sun), or has a thick, heavy coat. Black fat dogs with thick coats are especially at risk! Also, all short-nosed dogs (Pugs, Boston Terriers, Shih Tzus, Bulldogs, etc.) always have problems cooling off by panting and are very prone to heatstroke.
Always consider the outside temperature and the humidity when exercising with your dog. In temperatures above 80 degrees, your dog can overheat quickly. Increased humidity makes it harder for him to cool off via panting, and so does the sun. So, don’t exercise outdoors with your dog (this includes fast walking, jogging, running after a ball or frisbe, etc.) when temperatures are above 80 degrees and the sun is out. Especially if your dog is dark, fat, short-nosed and/or has a thick coat! If this is the only time you can exercise with your dog, go for short periods of time and soak your dog down with cold water before you start and again when you finish. Make sure any very heavy panting stops after 15 to 20 minutes, and supply cool water to drink and a cool surface to lie on (indoors in air conditioning or outdoors in deep shade, with a nice breeze or fan blowing on him). Try to find somewhere he could swim – this is the only exercise that does not cause major overheating in dogs in warmer weather.
If you are concerned that your dog may have heatstroke, take his temperature rectally. Use a thermometer made for rectal use, shake it down below 100 degrees, and use some lubrication. Hold it in place for 60 seconds, then take it out, wipe it off, and read the temperature. Dogs normally read 100 to 102.5, and can go up to 103.5 if overheated. Any temperature over 104 (from heat) is serious and needs immediate treatment, although dogs can get this kind of fever from a nasty infection, too. Temperatures of 105 and above are very dangerous!
At home, if you have taken your dog’s temperature after an overexposure to heat and it was 103.5 to 104.5, immediately soak him down with cool water and supply a fan. Let him drip; don’t try to towel him off or get him dry. Check his temperature every 10 minutes and if it is not going down, take him to the emergency clinic right away. He may need to be hospitalized. If your dog’s temperature is over 104.5, take him in for emergency treatment immediately. These kinds of high body temps can cause seizures, permanent brain damage and even death, so don’t wait!