The average temperature of a dog is 99.7° F to 102.5° F. When a dog has heatstroke, their temperature can be 106° F or higher. The technical term for heatstroke is hyperthermia: Hyper=high, thermia=temperature. This causes a body temperature that is so far above normal that the normal physiological process is subject to damage and dysfunction. The damaging effects of hyperthermia can be temporary or permanent and can cause sudden death. The higher the temperature and the longer it persists without treatment, the more damage it can cause.
Dogs only have sweat glands on their pads and nose which are inadequate for cooling during hot and humid weather. Dogs become less efficient at cooling themselves as the humidity rises. They regulate their body temperature by panting and drawing air over the moist membranes of both the nose and tongue, cooling by evaporation. However, if they can’t expel the heat fast enough, their body temperature will rise. Panting will actually generate more heat due to the muscle action involved. A rise of 3 degrees to a temperature of 105° F is all it takes to send your dog into a dangerous situation. At this temperature, the dog can no longer cope with reducing their body heat and the oxygen demand increases to where the dog cannot keep up and their temperature continues to rise. When their temperature hits 108° F, the heart, brain, liver, kidneys, and intestinal tracts begin to breakdown at a cellular level and the damage can progress at an alarming rate.
- Signs of Heat Stroke:
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Wide eyes
- Dry mouth and nose
- Saliva is thick and sticky
- Gums that look dull, grayish-pink, or bright red
- Very high body temperature (above 104°F)
- Staggering, unsteady, disorientated behavior
- Collapse and become unconscious in advanced heat stroke
- Treatment for Heat Stroke:
- Move to a cooler environment.
- Take the pet’s temperature rectally, if it is above 103°F you will need to begin cooling them.
- Use cool water making sure that the water is contacting their skin. Cool their belly and groin area and run water over their mouth and tongue. Cool them gradually.
- Pack ice in their groin, head, and neck areas. Cold towels can also be wrapped around the dog; just be sure to replace with fresh cold ones frequently. The towels will become warm quickly and will trap their body heat.
- Monitor their temperature every 2 minutes; discontinue cooling them when their rectal temperature reaches 104°F. Their body will continue to cool itself when you discontinue the cool water.
- If their temperature should fall below 100°F, keep the dog warm by covering them with a towel or even towels warmed from the dryer.
- Transport the dog to the nearest veterinarian ASAP!
**The only exception to not taking their temperature first is if the dog collapsed or already unconscious. At this point, you need to start cooling them as quickly as possible. While the dog is being cooled, have another person take their temperature at the same time.
Never leave your pet in your vehicle or tied out in the direct sunlight on warm, sunny days. Even a few minutes in your vehicle with the windows down can be critical for your pet. There are other factors that can increase the risk of developing heat stroke: lack of water, enclosed space, excessive humidity, obesity, age, cardiovascular disease, and exercise intolerance. Brachiocephalic breeds such as bulldogs, boxers, and pugs are more at risk for heat stroke than other breeds because of their short noses. Any animal when faced with high temperatures, high humidity, and time to build up heat within the body, can face the misfortune of being affected with heat stroke. Exercise your pet in the morning or late evenings when it is cooler and be sure to have fresh cold water or ice cubes for them. Please use common sense when taking your pet outdoors on hot days; if it is too hot for you, it is too hot for them.