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Keep Your Dog Cool This Summer: Heat Stroke, Part II

Posted December 22, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Dr. Justine Lee has some tips to help you pooch avoid heat stroke. For more from Dr. Lee, find her on Facebook!

Earlier this week, we talked about the dangers of heat stroke in dogs, including the 3 most common causes of heatstroke in dogs. Today, we’ll focus on what signs to look for and more importantly, how to prevent it!

Regardless of what the temperature or humidity is, always monitor your dog carefully for signs of fatigue or heat stroke. The sooner you notice these signs, the sooner you should stop any form of exercise, cool down your dog, and seek veterinary attention. 

Dog drinking waterSigns of heat stroke include:

  • Constant panting
  • Dragging behind (e.g., in other words, on a leash lagging several feet behind you)
  • Dry gums that feel sticky to the touch
  • Dark red gums
  • Vomiting
  • Acting wobbly or walking drunk
  • Collapse
  • An elevated heart rate
  • Feeling warm to the touch, with red, flushed skin
  • Seizures
  • Dark, concentrated urine

The longer heat stroke progresses, the more deadly to your pet. Other life-threatening signs to look for as heat stroke progresses include:

  • Seizures or tremors
  • Dark red-wine colored urine
  • Bloody or black, tarry diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A racing heart rate (due to arrhythmias or abnormal heart rhythms)
  • Collapse
  • Death

If you notice any of these signs, stop immediately and do the following:

  • Call someone who can get their car and bring you to a veterinarian immediately
  • Get your dog into the shade or to a water source so you can cool him down (e.g., ask a random person walking by if they have water and dump it on your dog’s head to cool him down).

Unfortunately, even with aggressive supportive care and treatment by your veterinarian, heat stroke can be fatal. The problem is that the heat destroys the cells in the body, resulting in
havoc. Even with aggressive IV fluids, plasma transfusions, antibiotics, cooling measures, anti-vomiting medication, anti-vomiting medication, anti-seizure medication, oxygen therapy, and 24 hour, continuous critical care monitoring, organ failure can still occur.

As treatment for heat stroke is expensive to you and costly to your pet, keep in mind that prevention is key when it comes to avoiding heat stroke. 

Some preventative tips on avoiding heat stroke include the following:

  • First, always check with your veterinarian to see if your dog is healthy enough – or a breed that is safe - to exercise with

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Justine has more than 18 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist as well as the CEO and founder of Vetgirl. She is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.