It is estimated that thousands of dogs each year die from heatstroke, and sadly, a staggering number of those cases are due to human error. Whether it’s a lack of adequate water and shade for an outside dog, or simply playing outside too long when it’s hot, heatstroke can happen quickly, and it can be deadly.
Death by heatstroke is preventable, and there are steps you can take to ensure your dog stays cool on even the hottest days of the year.
What Is Heatstroke: The Basics
Although even just the word ‘heatstroke’ can sound scary, knowing the facts behind heatstrokes in dogs can help you prevent them, and how to treat them.
What is Heatstroke in Dogs?
Heatstroke is when a dog’s internal temperature reaches above 39.4° C and begins to cause damage to vital organs. Temperatures ranging between 39.4°-40°C is considered a moderate heatstroke, Temperatures above that are considered a severe heatstroke. If you suspect that your dog may be experiencing a heatstroke, it is important to visit your veterinarian right away, as a dog who’s body maintains these high temperatures may suffer fatal consequences.
Signs and Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs
Learning the signs and symptoms of heatstroke in dogs will help you to act quickly if you think your dog may be experiencing a heatstroke. Signs and symptoms of heatstroke are:
- Excessive panting
- Breathing difficulty
- Red gums or pale gums
- Rapid heartbeat
- Loss of coordination or trouble standing
- Excessive thirst
- Purple or dark red tongue
- Sticky, thick saliva
It is important to note that your dog may not exhibit all of these signs and symptoms. If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms after being exposed to heat, you will need to take immediate action.
Heatstroke: Your Dog’s Risk Factors
Any dog exposed to hot temperatures is at risk of suffering a heatstroke, but some dogs are more predisposed than others.
Dogs with ‘pushed-in noses,’ also known as brachycephalic breeds, are more likely to succumb to heatstroke for a variety of reasons. French bulldogs, English bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, Shih Tzus, and Boxers, among others with short, stubby snouts, are considered high-risk when it comes to heatstrokes.
But Why are Brachycephalic Breeds More Prone to Heatstroke?
- A brachycephalic dog has a shorter muzzle than other dogs. Because of this, there is usually more skin and soft tissue in the area, narrowing or partially blocking the airway. This makes it difficult for a short-snouted dog to cool themselves quickly by panting alone.
- The esophagus of a brachycephalic dog is often more narrow or even deformed, making breathing more difficult.
- Narrowed nostrils can make inhaling more difficult in brachycephalic dogs.
- Since shorter-muzzled dogs have smaller mouths and tongues, they are unable to pull in enough air when panting. This means that brachycephalic breed dogs pant less effectively.
Older dogs carry their owns set of heatstroke risk factors. Many older dogs may be in poor health or are physically weaker, making it more difficult for them to pant. Additionally, older dogs are more likely to suffer a type of dementia and may not know that they need to consume water or move to shade. As an older dog’s body is less equipped to recover from a heatstroke, the chances of a fatality are higher.
Dogs Prone to Laryngeal Paralysis
Laryngeal paralysis is when a dysfunction in the larynx inhibits the ability to breathe deeply and may obstruct the airway. Labradors and Golden Retrievers are prone to laryngeal paralysis, making them highly susceptible to heatstroke