How to Prevent Heat Stroke in Dogs

Heat stroke in dogs is all too common an occurrence, particularly during the hot summer months and it’s been a hot summer at Kitterman Woods. Heat stroke often has devastating consequences resulting in irreversible damage and even death. Fortunately, with appropriate precautions, heat stroke is completely preventable. 

  1. If you suspect that your dog has heat stroke the best thing to do is spend a few minutues cooling your dog down with cold water before proceeding immediately to the closest veterinary hospital.
  2. Dogs cannot dissipate (release) heat through sweat glands on the underside of their abdomen. The primary way dogs dissipate heat is via panting. There are sweat glands in the ears and on the undersides of the paws (none on the underside of the abdomen), but they have only a limited capacity to cool a dog down.
  3. Coughing is not a common sympton of heat stroke. Symptoms can include heavy panting, weakness, uncoordinated gait, collapse, darker than normal tongue and gums, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of consciousness, and seizures.
  4. With excess exertion, heat stroke can occur even on a cool day.
  5. Laryngeal paralysis, heartworm disease, and kidney disease can all predispose a dog to heat stroke. A dog’s ability to get rid of excess body heat relies on normal blood circulation. Dogs with kidney failure often operate in a mildly dehydrated state that dampens normal blood circulation. Heartworm disease poses a double whammy. Secondary heart changes can reduce blood circulation, and, if the lungs are affected, the dog’s ability to dissipate heat via panting may be reduced. Laryngeal paralysis refers to immobilization of the cartilage structures that control airflow from the mouth and nose into the windpipe. This disease interferes with the normal panting process.
  6. On a hot day it is best to exercise your dog early in the morning or during evening hours, leave your dog in your air conditioned home rather than taking him with you in your car to run errands, go swimming, and eat lots of ice cream!

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