How To Prevent Heat Stroke In Your Dog

Anyone who has ever taken their dog on a long hike in the summer, let run for an extended period of time at the dog park in Florida in the summer heat or mistakenly in warm weather and high humidity allows their dog to participate in high-intensity exercise should know the signs of heatstroke in dogs.

Heat stroke if not addressed immediately will lead to death, so how to prevent heatstroke in your dog should be a topic you are extremely familiar with.

The causes heat stroke?

Heatstroke is when a dog not being able to cool itself properly.

Heat stroke from a dog not being able to cool themself properly

Unlike their parents, human bodies, dogs only have sweat glands on the pads of their feet, so they pant to expel heat and cool off.

Since dogs pant rather than sweat, they are much more sensitive to heat than their 2-legged parents are.

Think about this for a second, your out in the heat working in your yard or at the park with your kids throwing around a frisbee, or playing your favorite sports in the midday sun, and can only cool off by seating in your hands and feet.

Think you’ll be able to cool off?

Panting and sweating through a dog's feet, are only effective up to a certain point.

Panting and sweating through a dog’s feet, are only effective up to a certain point.

Being out in the sun for too long, exercising during the hottest part of the day, long walks in high humidity and heat, being in a car on a hot day, not drinking enough water, are examples of things that can cause heat stroke in dogs.

What is heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is easily preventable even in the heat of summer.

When your pet’s body temperature rises above a healthy range and they are unable to regulate their own body heat and cool off.

This can range from mild heat exhaustion, which can be treated at home, to severe heatstroke, which is a medical emergency that needs immediate veterinarian intervention since your dog could experience organ failure and die.

Because dogs primarily pant rather than sweat, they are much more sensitive to heat than humans are.

Fortunately, heat exhaustion is easy to prevent—even in the heat and humidity of summer.

Things to look for are:

  1. Excessive heavy panting or faster than normal (hyperventilation), they may be overheated. Dogs with flat faces like pugs are more prone to heat exhaustion because they cannot pant as efficiently as other dog breeds.
  2. Dehydration Look for signs of dehydration from a dry nose, visible tiredness, excessive panting, and sunken eyes.  These are early signs that your dog’s fluid balance is out of alignment.
  3. Excessive drooling  Keep an eye out for lots and lots of drool or drool that is thicker and stickier than usual.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke, medically called hyperthermia, is a severe case of becoming overheated.

Heat stroke can cause a number of potentially lethal problems such as dehydration, muscle weakness, loss of electrolytes, electrolyte imbalance, seizures, rapid heart rate, abnormal heart rhythms, coma, and cardiac arrest.

As a result, you should know the signs of heatstroke in your dog and how to cool them down if they start displaying symptoms of heat stress or heat stroke

As the days of spring start to make their appearance, we all dream of getting back outside and into activities like running, biking, tag football, and pickup soccer games.

With the increased activity, our bodies heat up and we begin to sweat and need to continuously rehydrate with cool water. You need to assure that you have access to water and a good amount of water to keep both yourself and your dog hydrated.

Dogs are no different, especially if you live in a cold climate and are just coming out of the winter months.  Dogs want to get back outside and enjoy the warmth of the sun, see what critters are starting to come out of hibernation, and find that rabbit that escaped them last fall.

As a result, you should know the signs of heatstroke in your dog and how to cool them down if they start displaying symptoms of heat stress or heat stroke.

What are the best ways to prevent heat stroke in dogs?

With spring around the corner and thoughts turning towards summer vacation, want you to be prepared, here are some ways to keep your dog safe from heat stress and heat stroke this summer.

How To Spot Heat Stroke In Your Dog

Recall, dogs don’t sweat like humans. They do release a little bit of moisture from the footpads and less haired areas (armpits and inner thighs). Their outer blood vessels dilate to promote radiant heat release.

the majority of a dogs' cooling system is by panting

By far the majority of a dogs’ cooling system is by panting, which is in the form of water vapor. You will even see drops of water coming off their tongues.

This water vapor is just that, water, no electrolytes (sodium, chloride, or potassium).

The kidneys conserve water to try and maintain hydration, but fluid loss continues.

Fluid replacement is therefore also ‘just’ water. Additional electrolytes in the water is unneeded by the body, and are just eliminated by the kidneys.

The danger point is when simple dehydration continues into heat stress and ultimately heat stroke.

Maintaining hydration is one very important aspect in preventing the more serious complications of heat stroke.

Cooling (sitting in the shade, wet down coat, fans, and air conditioning) and adequate rest periods, add to their overall health and increase a dog’s ability to prevent some serious problems from heat exposure.

Dogs often do not drink adequately or enough water, especially when playing.

Their excitement is also increased by the signals they get from their owners.

Signs of Heat Stroke Include:

  1. Warm to touch.
  2. Red mucous membranes of the mouth.
  3. Rapid heart rate.
  4. Dry nose.
  5. Quiet or poorly responsive, may lay down and refuse or be unable to rise.
  6. Fatigue
  7. Vomiting.
  8. Muscle Cramps
  9. Muscle tremors
  10. Confusion
  11. Dizziness and can’t stand on their own
  12. a reduction in urine output
  13. Fever

Treating Heat Stroke

If your dog is displaying mild to moderate signs of heat exhaustion or early signs of heat stroke, you need to cool them down – gradually, rapid cooling causes more problems.

If your dog seems stable enough start treatment at home, below is a list of things you can do to bring down your dog’s temperature at an appropriate rate:

  • Get your dog into the shade, ideally in front of a fan or into an air-conditioned environment
  • Have your dog lay on an ice pack or wet towel
  • Add ice cubes to their water bowl
  • Fill a kiddy wading pool or bathtub with cool – not cold – water, making sure you don’t; overfill the tub, you don’t need to have the water so high that it gets into your dog’s nose or mouth
  • Apply a cold pack to his head

Once your dog’s symptoms improve, you should take him to the vet immediately to have him checked for serious side effects that may have resulted from the heat stroke but may not be visible to you yet.

If your dog is showing severe symptoms of heatstroke, wrap him in cool wet towels, especially over the back of the neck, under the forelimbs, and in the groin area, and take him immediately to the vet. It could be a matter of life or death.

How To Prevent Heat Stroke

Make sure your dog always has access to clean water and shade.

Avoid taking them out or letting them get hard exercise during the hottest part of the day.

Avoid taking them out or letting them get hard exercise during the hottest part of the day. If you just can’t keep your active dog inside all day, consider a change of venue to running trails or paths near water sources like streams and ponds so that your dog can cool themselves off along the way.

Keep in mind, older, senior dogs, obese dogs, dogs with flat faces or other breathing problems, and dogs with thick coats are the most at risk of having a heat stroke.

Never leave your dog alone in a car. The temperature inside a car on a warm, sunny day, can increase to deadly temperatures faster than you realize.

Stop often and drink and try to have your dog drink water at the same time.  As I noted above, dogs often do not drink enough.

If your dog is like mine and it’s a battle to get her to drink, add some Active Dawg All-Natural Peanut butter Powder or  Active Dawg USDA Certified Organic chicken bone broth powder to the water.

By flavoring water, it’s an easy way to increase fluid intake and with Active Dawg products, the sodium intake is minimal. Most dog’s kidneys are working fine and their kidneys can handle the minimal sodium.

In advanced stages of heat stress, as fluid levels are depleted in a dog, sodium levels will naturally increase as their blood thickens, at this point fluid replacement (one of several treatments needed) is then given intravenously, and is mostly water.

Bone broth can help replace electrolytes after intense exercise and aid in post-workout recovery. It’s a nice way to rehydrate the body, because of the liquid, and then replenish the sodium — that electrolyte — that was lost through sweat during exercise. The amino acids in bone broth provide the body with the building blocks it needs to rebuild muscle.

A study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania compared 4 different hydration strategies, the hydration protocols were assigned randomly, and each pair of dogs had their access to water restricted either 1 hour (first 2 dogs) or 2 full tracks prior to their turn and received their delegated hydration strategy during the track run preceding theirs or 30 min prior to tracking (first 2 dogs) (Figure 2).

The dogs were given either water, OES, Chicken flavoring used in Hydrolyte, or SCE Plasmalyte A,

The dogs receiving chicken-flavored water had higher blood creatine kinase values at the end of the second track (p = 0.0361).

Otherwise, the 4 different hydration strategies had minimal effects on blood or urine parameters.

The study demonstrated that total fluid intake was lower with water-only hydration compared to the other three hydration methods.  Dogs drank far more flavored water than plain water.

All dogs developed elevated core body temperatures (median 106°F) without signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Demonstrating that alternate hydration strategies increased total fluid intake compared to water alone; however, chicken-flavored water resulted in increased markers of muscle injury suggesting electrolyte-enriched strategies may have an advantage as a hydration strategy.

Additionally, electrolyte-enriched fluids like bone broth before exercise may help these dogs maintain lower peak temperatures.

How Much Water Should My Dog Drink A Day

Maintenance fluids for a dog are 2-4 ml/kg/day (about 3 quarts for an 80-90 lb dog per day).

Then additional fluids are added for the time worked, the difficulty of the hike, exercise, and weather.

The amount of water needed could increase by 25%, 50%, 75%, and even double.

What is Electrolyte Disturbance?

Electrolytes are ionized salts that circulate through the body and play a crucial role in nutrient absorption and cell osmosis.

Phosphate is one of these important electrolytes.

About 85% of the phosphorus in both our and our dog’s bodies is contained in the bones, but a small amount circulates in the bloodstream as phosphate ions.

These electrolytes help to control nerve and muscle function, transport oxygen and regulate the conversion of food into energy.

Intestinal inflammation from diarrhea and fluid loss can reduce the absorption of phosphate, over an extended period of time.

Heat stroke can cause phosphate and other electrolyte imbalances as your dog lose fluid and suffer from dehydration.

Severely low levels of phosphate in the blood from dehydration from heat stroke in dogs can disrupt their breathing and heart rate, destroy red blood cells, and cause muscle weakness, dizziness, and neurological symptoms.

Phosphate is an important electrolyte that helps to regulate muscle function and metabolism. Many different electrolytes work together, so low phosphate levels can cause serious electrolyte disturbance.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Electrolyte Disturbance in Dogs

These are some of the symptoms of electrolyte imbalance that you might see in your dog. Life-threatening symptoms should be treated as an emergency.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle weakness and fatigue
  • Muscle pain

What are the Treatment Options of Electrolyte Disturbance in Dogs

A severe phosphate imbalance is treated with intravenous fluids and phosphate ions. If your dog is very ill, this treatment can save his life, so it’s important to get to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Once the condition is stabilized, treatment will focus on the underlying cause. Short-term conditions like refeeding or poisoning will resolve themselves once the life-threatening symptoms are treated. The veterinarian may prescribe medication to regulate diabetes or adjust existing doses to avoid recurrence.

Mild or moderate hypophosphatemia will be treated with supplements such as bone broth that can help replace electrolytes after intense exercise and aid in post-workout recovery.

It’s a nice way to rehydrate the body, because of the liquid, and then replenish the sodium — that electrolyte — that was lost through sweat and panting during exercise.

The amino acids in bone broth provide the body with the building blocks it needs to rebuild muscle.

Dairy products are high in phosphate, so the veterinarian may recommend adding these to your dog’s diet.

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