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The Dog Days of Summer

Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke

Now that we are in the depth of summer, it’s important to be aware of the dangers and symptoms of heat stroke. Heat stroke is a serious and dangerous problem that can happen very quickly to our pets, and and is 100% preventable.

Animals do not sweat as humans do. Although animals do have sweat glands in the pads of their feet, their primary way of cooling themselves is by panting.

Recognizing the signs of heat exhaustion is imperative so you can prevent it from developing inot potentially deadly heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion is defined as a body temperature over 103°. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Excessive Panting
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Dark red tongue
  • Increased heart rate
  • Lethargy or depression

If heat exhaustion is not treated quickly, your pet is at risk of having a heat stroke.  Heat stroke is defined as a body temperature over 105.8°.  Heat stroke IS A LIFE THREATENING CONDITION.

Signs of heat stroke include but are not limited to:

  • Obtunded, or large, hard abdomen (caused by excessive panting)
  • Change in mentation – unaware of who you are or where they are
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Petechiae or pin point bruises noted on gums or skin
  • Pale/White gums
  • Rapid heart rate

Short-snouted dogs (pugs, bull dogs, etc.), dogs with long hair (light or dark in color), or obese animals are at higher risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Recognizing and treating the signs of heat exhaustion is the key to keeping your pet from having a heat stroke.   If you see any of the signs above call your veterinarian immediately.  In the mean time, place cool clothes in their arm pits, between their hind legs, or submerge in a cool bath.  NEVER submerge in ice water as this will cause the body temperature to drop too rapidly and can cause shock.  Cool circulating air, such as a fan, can also help.  Offer small amounts of cool water, too large of an amount can make them vomit.

Keeping your pet’s time limited outdoors is crucial!  If they must be outdoors offer plenty of shade and fresh, cold water.  Never leave your pet in a car (anytime air temp is over 75°), even with windows down.  Prevention is the key!

Aldie Vet Heat Blog Post