How to Recognize the Signs of Heatstroke in Your Dog

It's summer in the New Orleans area. We don't have to tell you it's hot, and you probably don't need to see the heat advisories to know it's best for everyone (including pets) to stay inside in the air conditioning during the heat of the day. But in the event that your dog (or cat) does accidentally get overheated, do you know how to recognize the signs of heat stress and heatstroke?

While we sweat to regulate our body temperature, our dogs and cats don't - dogs pant (and cats sweat through their paw pads only). If your pet gets overheated, heat stroke and death can result. Even worse, it can happen in minutes.

To keep your dog (and cat) safe this summer, it’s important to recognize the signs of heatstroke and be cautious when temperatures rise into the 80's, 90's and higher.


The Symptoms of Dog Heatstroke

Fur is great for keeping warm in winter, but in the summer it's another layer of insulation. The signs of heatstroke in dogs include heavy panting and lying down, but there are other not so obvious symptoms, like a fast heartbeat. Be on the lookout for:

  • Heavy panting
  • Drooling
  • Lying down (more than usual)
  • Bright red gums (turning to purple or blue as the condition worsens)
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Increased body temperature (103.5° or higher)
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Exhaustion or lethargy
  • Seizures, shock and coma

Know the signs of heatstroke in your dog


If you suspect your dog has or is in danger of developing heatstroke, you need to bring him/her to a cooler location, use lukewarm water (running, soaking or on towels) on his/her neck and between the legs to bring down your dog's body temperature, and call your vet or the nearest emergency veterinarian immediately. Heatstroke can vary from mild to fatal because it can lead to kidney failure and swelling of the brain. There are danger signs that only a veterinarian would notice, which is why heat affected dogs should always receive immediate emergency treatment.

It’s important to keep any water you use lukewarm/cool, and not cold, to prevent shock. This isn’t a case where colder is better. Your goal is cool your dog down but not through extreme measures as those can cause further complications. Remember, too, that first aid is important, but getting your dog to the doctor should take precedence.


Treatment of Heatstroke

Replenishing vital nutrients is necessary for helping a dog recover. In some circumstances, IV fluids will be necessary, along with in-hospital monitoring to monitor for organ damage or other problems. Very often dogs (and cats) suffering from heat-stroke will need to spend a few days in the hospital to recover.

One of the most common causes of heatstroke in dogs isn’t a dog getting overheated from playing too hard. Most dogs will take a break and find some shade before that happens. Instead, it’s from well-meaning pet parents leaving their dogs in the car, “just for a minute.” Temperatures in cars can rise to over 100 degrees within 10 minutes if the outside temperature is only 85 degrees - even if you “crack the windows.” So be good to your pets and leave them at home when running errands during hot summer days.

Never leave your pets in a hot car


If you suspect your dog is overheated, please contact your veterinarian right away. Quick action can save your dog’s life - and remember, we're here 24/7 for any emergencies (heat-related or not) your pets may have!


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