Heatstroke in Dogs

Heatstroke in dogs

Taking your pets out for a stroll on a sunny day? Here are a few things to look out for to keep your fur babies happy!

What is heatstroke?

Heatstroke occurs when the body temperature of a dog increases above 40°C, with a spectrum of systemic signs. Recognising these signs is crucial to maximise the chances of saving an animal’s life. 

How do dogs regulate their body temperature?

Dogs cool off mainly by blood vessel expansion (vasodilation) and panting. During vasodilation, overheated blood is brought closer to the surface of the skin, where heat can be lost to the air. Additionally, when dogs pant, moisture is evaporated from their tongues, nasal passages, and the lining of their lungs, and this cools them down as air passes over the moist tissue.

While dogs have a small number of sweat glands (such as those on their paw pads), these do not contribute significantly to heat loss.

What should I do if I think my dog has heatstroke?

It’s important for your dog to be assessed by a vet as soon as possible. If you are not close to a vet an interim measure whilst transporting your pet would include soaking your dog with cool (but not cold) water and using a fan to improve cool air flow. Soaking the dog’s feet and placing cool towels on the abdomen can work well.

Risk factors

There are several factors that may decrease a dog’s ability to cool itself. These factors include:

  • Breed: Heatstroke can be seen in all breeds, but may be more likely in longhaired and brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds.
  • Age: Very young dogs and older dogs are easily susceptible to heatstroke
  • Weight: Overweight and obese dogs are more likely to suffer from heatstroke
  • Medical disorders: Hypothyroidism, cardiac disease, and laryngeal paralysis also contribute to heatstroke.
  • Environment: Dogs enclosed in confined spaces such as cars and exercise pens under direct sunlight for an extended period of time are likely to develop heatstroke

Preventative measures

It always helps to take preventative measures against heat stroke. Choose cooler times of day for play or training sessions. Always provide plenty of cool fresh water, shade, and frequent rest periods when it’s hot. And never leave your dog in the car – he may miss you, but he’ll be better off waiting for you at home.







Done by: Nurse Natalie