Heatstroke in dogs occurs when your pet becomes too hot and is unable to self-regulate their body temperature. It’s a type of non-pyrogenic hyperthermia, a heat-induced illness, which means your dog’s temperature rises, caused by external factors such as a hot summer’s day. Dogs carry a lot of fur, so to them, a walk outside on a hot day in the summer months is the equivalent to us wearing a fur coat in 26℃!
There are two types of heatstroke: exertional and non-exertional. Exertional heatstroke occurs when your dog undertakes vigorous exercise in hot weather and hasn’t been able to adjust to the increase in the outside temperature – it can take dogs 60 days to acclimatise to warmer weather. Non-exertional heatstroke is a result of your dog having little to no access to air or cool water in a warm environment, such as in a car or unshaded areas, where they can’t regulate their body heat.
Unlike humans, dogs don’t have sweat glands on furry areas of their body, so it’s not as easy for them to cool down naturally. However, dogs do sweat via the sweat glands around their nose and on their paws, but this is limited in relation to their body mass.
Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs
Unfortunately, 1 in 7 cases of dog heatstroke can result in a fatality, so it’s important to catch it early to protect your pet. Below are some of the tell-tale signs to detect heat exhaustion in dogs:
Dog Breeds More Susceptible to Heatstroke
Certain risk factors make some dogs more susceptible to heatstroke than others. Large and overweight dogs as well as flat-face dogs (brachycephalic breeds) are at higher risk for developing heatstroke on hot days.
Overweight dogs have increased body mass and naturally more fur and heavy coats, so their body temperature rises quicker. Their bodies are not conditioned for high temperatures, therefore they run into the risk of overheating.
Brachycephalic dogs are at risk because they can suffer from a narrow upper respiratory tract and narrow nostrils. They can have difficulty breathing as these narrow tracts and airways get obstructed, restricting airflow and ability for the dog to pant and circulate air through their bodies.
How to prevent heatstroke in dogs
Treatment for Heatstroke in Dogs
Heatstroke can develop quickly and the signs can often be tricky to spot. The most accurate way to treat heatstroke in dogs is to check your dog’s temperature using a rectal thermometer. Your dog’s temperature should be no higher than 40ºC.
If you are out walking your dog and you suspect they are suffering from heatstroke, please take them to your local vet immediately for urgent treatment. Left untreated, your dog can develop more serious conditions or become fatal.