Heat Stroke in Dogs

Most dogs have a warm fur coat, and unlike humans who eliminate heat through sweating, dogs pant to cool themselves down and regulate their body temperature. But in some cases panting is not enough, and as a dog’s body temperature rises, so does their likelihood of experiencing a heat-related illness. Heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke can occur – and in the worst cases, heat stroke in dogs can be fatal. So it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of heat stroke in dogs, as well as how to treat and prevent this life-threatening condition in your dog or dogs.

What is heat stroke in dogs?

Heat stroke is most common in the warm months, but can happen to your dog any time of year. It can also happen quite suddenly, so it’s important to know what to look out for. Hyperthermia in dogs occurs when panting is not enough, and their body temperature increases above 39°C. They become subject to the following types of heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke in dogs:

Heat stress: When dogs experience heat stress, they become very thirsty and pant rapidly. The dog is mentally aware and can move about, but is under stress from the heat. It’s important to cool the dog down immediately at this stage, to prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Heat stroke vs heat exhaustion in dogs

Heat exhaustion: In cases of heat exhaustion, the heat stress has become extreme. The heat-exhausted dog typically is very weak and may have difficulty moving around and could collapse. They are very thirsty, and pant heavily.

Heat stroke: Heat stroke is the most serious form of hyperthermia, in which the dog’s temperature reaches a dangerous 41.1°C or even higher. Neurological and organ function begins to fail. At 43°C, proteins which make up the cells of the dog’s body begin to melt. The higher the temperatures and the longer the dog is exposed to heat, the greater the chances are of organ failure and death.

Can dogs die of heat stroke?

Yes, heat stroke in dogs can cause death. High temperatures affect various organ functioning and cellular structure, and can cause a dog’s body to shut down irreversibly. So it’s important to be aware of the warning signs of overheating and heat stroke in dogs and take steps to cool your dog down in hot weather conditions.

Overheating and heat stroke in dogs infographic

What causes heat stroke in dogs?

The most common cause of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses in dogs is: leaving a dog in a car with not enough air circulation. Since dogs release heat through panting, inadequate ventilation is enough to cause them to get overheated. Of course, elevated temperatures and humidity also cause heat stroke. Other factors that can lead to heat stroke include:



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