Dogs: Signs of Heatstroke and What to Do

Cute pug dogs suffering from heat stroke near bowl of water on floor at home

Heatstroke in dogs may sound like an uncommon issue, but it’s actually one of the most common problems that pet owners have to deal with on a yearly basis.

Heatstroke occurs when your dog’s body temperature reaches over 106 degrees and it can be fatal if not treated promptly and correctly.

While there are plenty of heat-related issues to be aware of, heatstroke is the most severe and problematic one of them all, so here are 10 signs your dog is having a heatstroke and what you should do to prevent it and help your dog in case it occurs.


1) Panting

While it may seem like your dog is just being playful, it’s actually one of the more obvious signs that your pup is experiencing heat stroke. Pay attention to how often your dog pants throughout different activities in different environments.

If you notice increased panting or rapid breathing, especially in high-temperature conditions, consider taking measures immediately to cool down your pet. In fact, according to PetMD, any amount of panting could be cause for concern – but heavy panting is a clear sign that something isn’t right.

It’s also important to note what type of activity your dog is engaging in; if he/she is exerting themselves too much or not at all (such as sleeping), it could be a sign they are overheating.


2) Rapid Heart Rate

Like humans, dogs can overheat if they spend too much time in hot weather. When their temperature rises above 102 degrees Fahrenheit, dogs start showing signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Watch out for rapid heart rate—it’s one of the most common symptoms.

Rapid heart rate (which often goes hand-in-hand with panting) occurs when blood flow increases to cool down your dog’s body temperature. The faster his heart beats, the more oxygen he needs to help him breathe and circulate blood throughout his body.

If his heartbeat continues at an abnormally high rate for several minutes, it could be a sign that he’s overheating.


3) Trouble Breathing

If your dog has trouble breathing, open airways by tilting its head back and lifting its chin. If your dog stops breathing, perform mouth-to-nose resuscitation immediately. Use short, quick breaths in an effort to get some oxygen flowing into your pooch’s body.

Continue until help arrives or your dog starts breathing on his own again. Never attempt to give mouth-to-mouth if you are not sure how—it can be dangerous for both you and your pet!


4) Bright Red Tongue

We’ve all heard about dogs panting when they’re hot, but sometimes it’s difficult to know if their tongues are really pink or not. One quick indicator is if your dog has a bright red tongue—this may be an indication that he’s overheated.

If you see your dog with his tongue out, make sure you get him into the shade or have him drink cool water immediately. Dogs can also suffer from heatstroke if they become dehydrated due to excessive exercise in warm weather.

Make sure your pet always has access to fresh water on hot days, even while you’re exercising them!


5) Sluggishness

One of the signs that your dog might be overheating in hot weather, as well as one of its most severe symptoms, is sluggishness. If you notice your dog not reacting or moving when it normally would, take them for a cool bath immediately.

You may also see shallow breathing and slow heart rate. If any of these are accompanied by other signs like drooling, vomiting, or collapse then it’s probably time to call an ambulance!


6) Excessive Thirst

Dogs are naturally attracted to water, so if they’re licking or pawing at their mouths, you know something isn’t right. If you see your dog excessively drinking, or vomiting clear fluids (that aren’t mucus), take them out of direct sunlight immediately. They could be suffering from heat exhaustion.

Be sure to give them plenty of cool water, but don’t force it down their throat; let them drink as much as they want. This will help replenish lost fluids and electrolytes.


7) Vomiting

Vomiting can be caused by heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Dogs that are vomiting, have diarrhea, or are extremely lethargic may be suffering from one of these ailments. If your dog shows any signs of dehydration, get him to a vet immediately.

In some cases, dogs will vomit when they become overheated because their body temperature rises so quickly that it causes nausea. If your dog vomits once but seems otherwise okay, you should keep an eye on him for at least another hour before letting him play outside again in warm weather.

However, if he vomits repeatedly, has a fever over 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius), has severe weakness or lethargy, or is drooling excessively—take him to a veterinarian right away.

Even if he doesn’t show other symptoms of heatstroke—you should still take him to see a vet if he’s vomiting repeatedly after being outside in hot weather. This could be an indication that there’s something else wrong with his health unrelated to excessive heat exposure.


8) Diarrhea

If your dog has diarrhea, get it inside immediately. Have it lie down in a cool place, away from any direct sunlight. Don’t give it water, but offer small sips of plain yogurt or some other dairy product that you can tolerate (dairy products are good for digestion).

Call your vet if symptoms don’t subside within an hour or two. Most cases of heat stroke are mild and temporary, so recovery should be quick once they’re back indoors.

However, severe cases can lead to kidney failure—so seek medical attention right away if you suspect heat stroke in your pet.


9) Lethargy and Fatigue

If your dog seems slow, tired, or apathetic during hot weather, these can be signs of heat exhaustion. Make sure your dog has adequate shade and water access; it may also be beneficial to keep them indoors where possible. If lethargy persists or worsens, take them in for medical attention. You should see improvement within a few hours if you get them treated promptly.

Thirst. Dogs will drink more than usual when they are overheated. However, some dogs don’t seem to feel thirst even when they are extremely dehydrated (dehydration can cause dangerous kidney failure). The best way to check if your dog is dehydrated is by feeling their gums; they should feel moist and elastic, not dry or sticky.

If you suspect dehydration, get them medical attention immediately. You can also add Pedialyte to their water as it contains electrolytes that help replenish fluids in your dog’s body. Panting: If you see excessive panting, it could be a sign of heat exhaustion or heat stroke—it all depends on how quickly and severely your dog is breathing.

In general, heavy panting accompanied by lethargy may indicate heat exhaustion; rapid breathing with no other symptoms may mean heat stroke has set in. Look for signs of vomiting, diarrhea, or seizure-like activity as well; these are signs that your dog needs immediate medical attention.

Dizziness/Confusion: If your dog seems disoriented or confused, these can be signs of heat stroke. They may stagger about aimlessly and bump into things, lie down suddenly without warning, appear dazed or glassy-eyed, become aggressive without provocation, etc. This is an emergency situation; call a veterinarian right away!


10) Extreme Constipation

One common reason that dogs suffer from heat stroke, or overheating, is due to extreme constipation. Dogs (just like humans) often try to hold their bowels in until they can reach an area where they feel more comfortable going outside. If your dog suffers from severe constipation then he may end up having a heat stroke if he isn’t able to relieve himself quickly enough when outside.

The best way to prevent extreme constipation is by providing your dog with plenty of fresh water at all times. Be sure to also give him regular exercise so that his body will be used to releasing waste on a regular basis.

You should also consult with your veterinarian about any dietary changes you might need to make in order for him not to become so constipated. It’s always better to prevent heat stroke than it is to treat it after it has already happened!


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