Dogs are unable to tolerate very hot weather as well as people. People have the ability to sweat in order to cool themselves down, while dogs have to rely on exchanging warm air in their bodies for cooler air in their environment by panting. Excessive panting can be one of the first signs of heat stroke. You may also notice difficulty breathing, lots of thick saliva, bright red mucous membranes, dehydration, vomiting, lethargy, disorientation and uncoordination. If left untreated at this phase, heat stroke can progress to shock, causing grey or pale blue mucous membranes, bloody diarrhea, coma, seizures and death.
If you notice ANY of these symptoms of heat stroke it is advised that you begin measures to cool your dog down, starting with taking a rectal temperature. The normal temperature for a dog can be up to 102.5 degrees. If your dog’s temperature is elevated, move him to a cooler environment immediately. If your dog’s temperature is above 104 degrees, cool him by submersing him in cool water for several minutes and then placing him in front of a fan. Pouring cool water on him or covering his face and feet in cool, wet towels is another option if a bath is not available. Ice baths are not recommended as they can actually worsen the problem by causing the immediate constriction of blood vessels- trapping the heat inside the body. Isopropyl alcohol can also be applied to the pads of the feet to encourage cooling since dogs actually have a few sweat glands on the pads of their feet. Continue monitoring your dog’s temperature every 5-10 minutes. If you are able to cool your dog’s temperature to less than 103 degrees, stop these measures in order to avoid hypothermia. If you are unable to cool your dog, he should be taken immediately to a veterinarian, ideally performing cooling measures along the way. Irreversible damage to organs and cells can occur at 106 degrees.
Any dog that has suffered from heat stroke should be examined by a veterinarian. Abrupt, severe increases in body temperature can cause dehydration, while excessive vomiting can cause an electrolyte imbalance. Additionally, laryngeal edema, heart problems, kidney failure and seizures are also potential problems that can occur due to heat stroke. A complete physical examination and possible blood work and radiographs may help to prevent your pet from suffering from these potentially devastating problems. Your veterinarian will ensure that your dog’s body temperature remains in a safe range and may suggest subcutaneous or IV fluids to replace fluids lost during the heat stroke.
If you have suspect that your dog has suffered from heat stroke it is imperative that you bring him to a veterinarian right away. Heat stroke is a very serious condition and can be fatal if not corrected in time. If you have any questions regarding heat stroke and your dog please do not hesitate to contact the River Road Veterinary Clinic.