Dogs are limited in how they can cool their body down. They pant to help eliminate heat from their body. They have a few sweat glands in their feet, but these are relatively inefficient at cooling the body. If your dog gets so hot that he cannot cool himself down by panting, he may experience heatstroke.
Signs of Heatstroke
Your dog’s instinct will be to work hard to cool himself down. Excessive panting is a red flag that your dog is overheating. Dogs that are too hot are often sedentary and unwilling to move. There are other physical symptoms of heatstroke, such as excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and uncoordinated movement or even collapsing.
Some dogs are more prone to heatstroke than others. Dogs with flat faces, known as brachycephalic, are physically less efficient at cooling themselves down. Other physical issues, such as having a short nose or thick fur, can also predispose a dog to heatstroke. Older dogs and dogs carrying excessive weight are also more susceptible to overheating.
Certain conditions are more likely to lead to heatstroke than others. Hot, humid weather can quickly lead to overheating. If you take your dog in the car, use a dog crate that allows for good airflow or use a dog seatbelt that allows him to ride in a seat. Never leave him in the vehicle with the windows up and the car off, even if you are parked in the shade. When he is outdoors in the heat, be sure he has access to shade and cool water.
What to Do
If you believe your dog is suffering from heatstroke, the most important step is to cool him down. Remove him from the heated environment and work on lowering his temperature. If he is unconscious, you must be careful to avoid getting water in his mouth and nose while doing so.
Using cool water to bring your dog’s temperature down. Place him in a tub, use water from a hose, or even place cool, wet towels on him. Keep replacing the towels or rinsing them in cool water so they don’t trap heat against your pet.
While working on cooling your pet, contact your vet. They will probably want to see your pet right away. If your dog is interested in water, encourage him to drink, but don’t try to force water into his mouth.
Heatstroke is a serious condition and can lead to other complications. These complications include swelling in the brain, abnormal blood clotting, intestinal bleeding, and kidney failure. It is important to have your dog examined by a veterinarian even if he seems to recover quickly from overheating.