What Is Heat Stroke In Dogs? (And How To Avoid It)

Plus, what to do if your dog’s too hot ♨️

Dog with Heatstroke

The summer is the perfect excuse to spend time outside with your dog — whether you’re going hiking, swimming or just hanging out in the backyard.

And while the summer comes with all types of fun activities — and some longer walks — when that sun beats down you might be wondering about heat stroke in dogs.

If you see your dog panting heavily or notice it’s extra hot or humid out, it’s important to take the right steps to help cool her down and keep her safe.

What is heat stroke in dogs?

Heat stroke in your pup would mean that her body has gotten too hot and she isn’t able to cool herself down.

In general, if your pup’s body temperature rises above 103 F, this is considered risky and you should work to cool her down. If her body temperature hits 106 F, this is heat stroke and should be considered a medical emergency.

Signs your dog is getting too hot

It’s important to note that normal dog temperature is between 100 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Even after significant exertion they shouldn’t be far into the 103 [degree Fahrenheit] range, and if their temperature remains higher than this while resting, it is concerning [as an indicator] for heatstroke,” Dr. Romine said.

These are some signs your dog is getting too hot:

  • Loud, heavy panting and increased effort to breathe
  • Sometimes dogs will also become very tired, unwilling to rise, or be weak, trembling, or staggering
  • Watch for bright red, purple, or very pale mucous membranes — found by checking their inner cheeks and gums — as these can be signs associated with a dog entering shock from heat stroke
  • Dogs with severe heat stroke may also show gastrointestinal signs due to shock such as vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood) or very dark stools

What to do if your dog is getting too hot

“If you are concerned your dog is too hot, soak their fur in cool water, and a wet towel can be pressed on their paws to help heat dissipate,” Dr. Romine said. “Also try to get them in front of a fan to help with evaporative cooling, but avoid ice water — this makes the skin blood vessels contract which pushes the hot blood deeper into their internal organs.”

You might also want to consider getting your dog a cooling mat — these are pressure-activated so that once your dog lays down on it, it begins to cool.

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According to Dr. Romine, it’s also important to know that brachycephalic dogs — which means dogs with short snouts, like pugs, French bulldogs, some pit bulls, English bulldogs, shih tzus and more — are at a much higher risk of heat stroke because their nasal passages are much smaller in proportion to their body size compared to other dogs. Because of this, many of them have smaller tracheas, which also limits heat exchange. “These breeds need very close monitoring in hot or humid conditions!” Dr. Romine said.

4 tips to fight heat stroke

To get some tips on how to keep your dog safe in the heat, we spoke to Dr. Jessica Romine, a veterinarian at BluePearl Pet Hospital in New York City.

1. Be sure your dog has access to fresh water and shade

According to Dr. Romine, your dog “should always be able to seek respite from the direct sun even if it is not extremely hot outside.” This means you should always have water available and a shaded area for your dog to relax in when she feels she’s getting a little too hot.

You can even get your dog a portable, collapsible water bowl so that you always have one handy, no matter where you are.

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2. Pay attention to humidity

Dogs cannot sweat beyond their paw pads,” Dr. Romine said, “and panting relies on evaporation to cool their bodies.”

According to Dr. Romine, panting is much less effective in very humid weather, so dogs are more prone to overheating than humans since we can sweat. Pay close attention to the weather and try to avoid taking them outside in extreme heat — but if you have to, make sure they have access to shade and water.

3. Know how the heat affects your dog

Dogs with heavy coats bred for northern climates — like Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, etc. — are more prone to becoming very hot and uncomfortable in more southern, warmer climates.

“These coats are designed to trap a layer of warm air in the dense fur right next to their skin, so while the outside of their fur might be cool, the inner portions can get quite warm,” Dr. Romine said.

Take extra precautions with these breeds to make sure they’re cool enough in the heat.

4. Get your dog a summer fur cut

According to Dr. Romine, “many long/dense-coated dogs have more energy and are more comfortable with a lion cut in summer months.”

If your pup appears to be overheating and you’re concerned about heat stroke, your dog should be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately. A vet can properly assess body temperature and monitor for signs of the more severe shock consequences of heat exposure.

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