Heatstroke in dogs


The summer sun seems to have appeared over Pembrokeshire. Whilst the soaring temperatures are lovely for human sun-worshippers, they can have devastating effects on our four legged friends.

What is Heatstroke?
• It is a true veterinary emergency. If left untreated it can soon lead to the death of a pet.
• It is also called ‘non pyrogenic hyperthermia’. This basically means a high body temperature not caused by a fever.
• There are two types of heatstroke- exertional and non exertional.
• Exertional heatstroke occurs during or after exercise on hot sunny days.
• Non exertional occurs in dogs exposed to high temperatures without ventilation or a water source. E.g dogs left in parked cars, conservatories or even in a garden without shade.

Which dogs are at risk?
All dogs have a hard time regulating their body temperature when it is warm outside. Unlike humans, they only have sweat glands on their paws and nose, so rely more on panting to help cool themselves down. Fit and healthy dogs can suffer from heatstroke, but some dogs are at a higher risk of developing symptoms. These include
• very young or old dogs
• short faced dogs (a.k.a ‘brachycephalics such as boxers, bulldogs and pugs),
• overweight animals
• thick coated breeds
• dogs with preexisting health problems e.g breathing or heart problems

What are the signs to look out for?
Dogs may not show any warning signs of being in difficulty.

Common things to watch out for include
• Drooling
• Panting
• Lethargy or acting sleepy
• Wobbliness/ being uncoordinated
• Collapse
• Vomiting

These signs can be associated with other health problems, so if in doubt please call us on 01437 760111 to speak to a vet for advice.

How to help your pet – emergency first aid and prevention
If you think your pet has become overheated there are several ways that you can help:
 Don’t panic! Move your pet to a cool or shady area and ring a vet for advice.
 Actively cool your pet
 This must be done CAREFULLY as you could do more harm than good.
 NEVER immerse your pet fully/ completely douse them in cold water as this could cause them to go into shock.
 Ways to safely bring your dog’s temperature down include
 Using small amounts of room temperature water to pour on their body, little and often.
 Wrapping your pet in wet towels.
 Standing your pet near a fan.
 Allowing them to drink SMALL amounts of cool water.
 Keep cooling your pet until their breathing starts to settle. ‘Normal’ breathing for a dog is about 24 breaths per minute, although each dog is different. To check your dog’s breathing rate, count his or her chest movements over 15 seconds and multiply by 4.
 Make sure you don’t keep actively cooling your pet for too long as they will start to become too cold.
 Bring your pet in to the vets for a check- up ASAP, even if they seem better.

Prevention is always better than cure, so follow these tips to stop your dog becoming too warm in the first place
Never leave your pet in a car or caravan. Even with open windows and in the shade the temperature inside a parked vehicle can soar within minutes.
 Avoid exercising your pet in the heat of the day ( 11-3). Early morning or evening is better. Not only will this prevent heatstroke but it will also prevent burnt or damaged pads due to hot pavements/tarmac.

What to do if you see a dog in a parked car?
The RSPCA has good guidelines on what to do if you are worried about an animal left unattended. The best thing to do is call the police.
RSPCA advice on what to do if you find a dog in a hot car

About the author

Practice Manager since August 2016 and loving every day

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