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Advanced Veterinary Specialists

Heatstroke: 10 Points

A Brown Dog Lying on Grass Next to a Plant Pot Outside

Elevated body temperature caused by environmental factors is called heatstroke, hyperthermia, or heat prostration.

  1. A dog’s normal body temperature is between 100-102 F. Body temperature higher than 105 is life-threatening.

  2. Environmental factors that lead to heatstroke include hot summer weather, especially when associated with humid conditions and poor ventilation. A closed car with a pet inside can be a death trap even on a cool day! The temperature within a vehicle may increase by 40 degrees Fahrenheit within one hour regardless of the outside temperature.

  3. Anatomy matters! Brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds are at risk.

  4. Some health conditions predispose to heatstroke. Pets with obesity, heart disease, collapsing trachea, lung conditions, or seizure history are at increased risk.

  5. Pets with separation anxiety or reactive pets should never be left in a confined space.

  6. Avoid exercise in hot/humid weather and direct sun. Pavement and sand heat up quickly. Heat is transferred to your pet by reflection and directly through its paws.

  7. Signs of heatstroke can include: restless/distressed behavior, pacing, excessive panting, drooling, and weakness or poor responsiveness. Bluish/purple or bright red gums can occur.

  8. If you think your pet is overheated move your pet by moving them to a cool, shaded location. Place cool, wet towels on the back of the neck, armpits, and groin. Wet ear flaps and paws. DO NOT ice cold water as this will actually slow down cooling by causing vasoconstriction.

  9. GO IMMEDIATELY to the nearest veterinarian for further care. All organ systems are affected by heatstroke even after body temperature is normalized. Your pet may require several days of intensive care including IV fluids, oxygen support, and plasma transfusions before it is clear if they can make a full recovery.