5 Warning Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs

As summer begins to reach its highest temperatures, there’s no better way to enjoy it than going outdoors with your friends, family, and pets. While most people are aware of the dangers of excessive heat and sun to humans (sunburn, heat stroke, nausea, etc.), not many realize your four-legged friends also need attention.

What is Heat Stroke?

Heat stroke is an extreme form of hyperthermia (high body temperatures) that if left untreated can lead to multiple organ failure and become fatal. Dogs dissipate heat primarily through panting (open-mouth breathing) and small sweat glands in their paws, when temperatures are too high, they struggle to cool down, which can cause heat stroke.

When it comes to dogs, it’s generally agreed that body temperatures of around 104 degrees Fahrenheit (or 40 degrees Celsius) or higher are above normal. If the temperatures continue to rise and reach 106 degrees Fahrenheit (over 41 degrees Celsius), internal organs begin to shut down and eventually the heart fails.

Although the majority of dog breeds can suffer from heat stroke, there are some, which are more prone to overheating. As a general rule, dogs that are very young or old, or with long hair tend to be more sensitive to the heat. Breeds with flat faces and short noses (called brachycephalic) such as pugs, bulldogs, and boxers, have a hard time breathing when temperatures are too high. Special attention should also be given to hunting breeds like shepherds and retrievers as they can literally run until they die.

Before taking your dog with you on an extremely hot day, it’s essential to learn about the warning signs of heat stroke, and what to do if your dog is suffering from it.

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Warning Signs


1. Panting Heavily

As mentioned before, different from humans who can cool down their temperatures via sweating, dogs do it mainly through their mouths. While panting is a completely natural process, you should keep an eye out to see if your pet is doing it lightly or in a strenuous way. When a dog is panting heavily, its mouth tends to be wide open with a swollen tongue hanging to the side.

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