Heatstroke in Dogs

Reference Minnesota Chapter of NAVHDA

A dog's body temperature is normally between 101°F and 102°F.

Dogs regulate their body temperature by panting, expelling heat out, causing an evaporatory reaction. If they can not expel the heat fast enough, their body temperature rises. A rise of 3 degrees in body to a temperature to 105°F is all it takes to send your dog into a dangerous situation. At this temperature, the dog can no longer cope with reducing their body heat and the oxygen demand goes up to where the dog can not keep up. Therefore, their temperature continues to rise.

When the temperature hits 108°F, the heart, brain, liver, kidneys, and intestinal tracts start to begin breaking down at a cellular level, and the damage can progress at an alarming rate. Even immediate treatment and effective cooling to bring his temperature down can leave the dog with internal damage that may affect his health in long term ways.

Early Signs of Heat Stroke Signs of early stages of heat stroke include rapid breathing, dry mouth and nose, rapid heart rate, and gums that leave their healthy color for dull, grayish color. This grayish condition may also be visible in the tongue or rectum.

This situation is an emergency! Even at the earliest stage of heat stroke, you may be fighting for your dog's life. These symptoms can be followed in minutes by collapse, seizures, coma and death.

Field First Aid If your dog is showing the first signs of heat exhaustion, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, or grayish gums take the dog to shade, and soak him with cool water. Do NOT use extremely cold or iced water. This will cause blood vessels to constrict and will stop the heat from escaping.

You can apply ice packs to the areas underneath his front legs, and to the groin area for rapid blood cooling. Give your dog enough water to wet his mouth and throat, but do NOT allow your dog to drink copious amounts! You may also spray the paw pads with rubbing alcohol. This causes immediate evaporation to help cool them off. Note: do not apply alcohol to other parts of the body as this may cause other problems.

Take your dog's temperature, this is best done rectally to get the most accurate reading. If the temperature is above 103 degrees, there is a good chance it is still rising. You should start to get concerned at this point and prepare your dog for transport to the nearest vet clinic. Keep in mind that your dog may need to be hospitalized.

Do NOT cover your dog, even with a cold towel. This will prevent the heat from escaping.

During transport, do NOT place him back in his crate, but keep him with you, with windows down and air conditioning on high, to allow evaporation which will aid in the cooling process.

Yes, there is also a danger that dog can become too cold. Monitor the temperatures and stop the cooling process as soon as your dog's temperature reads normally again.

Continue on the vet's, your dog is not saved yet!

Closing What is the old saying? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Keep your dogs well hydrated, give them adequate shade and ventilation, don’t over exert them or water when the heat index is high, and watch them closely so you know when to pull them before they have had enough.