heat stroke dog

It’s mid day, and you take your dog to the dog park for some fun. He joyfully romps around with another dog for about 5 minutes, then comes back to you panting and drooling. He seems a little out of it, so you decide to take him home. He has trouble jumping into the back of your truck like he normally does. On the way home, he’s quiet and subdued. 

Is your dog in trouble? You bet. He has some of the classic early warning signs of heat stroke in pets, a dangerous and potentially fatal condition. 

What is Heat Stroke? 

Heat stroke in pets occurs when a dog or cat’s body temperature rises above 104 degrees, and their normal cooling mechanisms become overwhelmed and stops working properly. Organ failure can also occur if heat stroke is allowed to progress, including liver, kidney, blood clotting, neurologic and urinary system failure. Once organ failure occurs, recovery is unlikely. 

While heat stroke in pets can occur quickly, there is often a progression from heat exhaustion and heat stress to the more severe heat stroke. This is why it’s so important for pet owners to recognize the early warning signs, and even more importantly, to know what to do if your pet shows these signs.

Signs of Heat Stress or Heat Exhaustion

Depending on your dog’s health, how long they have been in the heat, and their activity level, early warning signs may vary. If you are worried about your dog for any reason, please don’t hesitate to call us or have them seen at the nearest veterinary hospital.

  • Moving more slowly than normal
  • Seeking shade
  • Seeking out puddles or other water sources for drinking
  • Persistent or prolonged panting
  • Rapid pulse
  • Wide, stressed eyes
  • Dark red gums and tongue
  • Increased anxiety

Signs of Heat Stroke in Pets

As heat exhaustion in pets progresses, you may see all or some of these signs in addition to the above:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fast, irregular pulse
  • Drooling
  • Staggering, weakness, collapse
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Seizures

Helping Your Pet

While some cases of mild heat exhaustion can be successfully staved off with the basic first aid steps below, all cases of heat stroke require veterinary care following your initial first aid. When in doubt, just bring your pet in right away for veterinary evaluation. This is one instance when it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

  • Stop activity and move your pet to a safe, shady (preferably air conditioned) spot
  • Offer (but don’t force) drinking water in small amounts frequently
  • Wrap paws, groin, and belly with room temperature/ cool (never icy) wet towels
  • Transport your pet to the nearest veterinarian immediately for veterinary care and treatment

It goes without saying that you should never, ever leave your pet in a parked vehicle. Even in the shade. Even with the windows cracked. Being left in parked cars is the number one cause of heat related death in pets. It’s just not worth it.

If you have any questions or concerns about heat exhaustion in pets, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. Your team at King’s Trail Animal Hospital is ready to help. 

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