heatstroke in dogs

Dog First Aid – Heatstroke

We humans can remove our coats, jackets and other cold weather gear when the weather warms up. Dogs cannot discard their one of a kind fur coat thus they are more prone to heatstroke. Dogs have a poor cooling system as their very few sweat glands are mostly found in their paws. These animals pant to dispel the heat. Panting is of course an inefficient way of regulating body temperature. Overheating or heatstroke is a common concern of dogs.

Heatstroke or hyperthermia is a very serious condition that can happen to a dog instantly. A dog that is left in the car with closed windows, or one that is left chained in the yard under the heat of the sun can succumb to hyperthermia. This condition occurs when the body can no longer dissipate the heat that is being gained. The breakdown of cells caused by high temperatures will thicken the blood and result in dehydration. Apart from causing the blood to clot, a dog’s temperature that reaches 106°F will have a quick and very serious effect on the heart, liver, brain and other vital organs. Death of the dog is imminent if nothing is done to quickly bring down the elevated temperature.

Before any first aid measure is administered, the dog owner has to be aware of the condition of the pet. Rapid panting is one of the first signs of heatstroke. Sticky and thick saliva on a bright red tongue is another indication of this deadly concern. An affected dog would either have a pale or very red gums. A dog owner has to watch out for vomiting, diarrhea and signs of weakness. The condition will lead to the death of the dog if urgent treatment is not administered.

Remove the pet from the hot confined area at once. The goal of the emergency care is to bring down the elevated temperature of the dog. The pet can be soaked in cool water. Hosing or immersing the dog in a tub of cool water will make his temperature drop quickly.

Wet rolled towels can be placed on the dog’s head and neck. Temperature can be lowered rapidly by putting ice packs on the dog’s feet and by sponging the groin area. The temperature of the dog has to be reduced but very cold or ice water must not be used as it will constrict the blood vessels and prevent the heat from escaping. First aid methods to cool the dog must be stopped when the rectal temperature reading has reached 103°F.

Read more about heatstroke and first aid for dogs at Sarah’s Dogs.