Is your dog suffering a heatstroke? Don’t miss these 5 warning signs

Heatstroke is a potentially fatal condition that has to be treated immediately. Answering these 5 questions about your dog's behaviour can help you save their life.

Is your dog suffering a heatstroke? Don’t miss these 5 non-obvious warning signs
© Photo by Inge Van den Heuv on
Is your dog suffering a heatstroke? Don’t miss these 5 non-obvious warning signs

Summer is the perfect time to embrace the sunshine and blue skies, but we must remember that high temperatures carry health risks. And it is more so for our furry family members.Dogs are more sensitive to heat than us and cannot signal in the same way when they are unwell.

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Heatstress, heat exhaustion and heatstroke occur when your pet’s body temperature rises above a healthy range. It prevents the animal from regulating its own body heat. Some symptoms of heat-related illnesses are not obvious. It is vital you ask yourself these 5 questions.

1. Is your dog panting faster than usual?

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Panting is your dog’s cooling mechanism because they do not have an effective system of sweat glands as we do. According to RSPCA, if your pet is panting constantly or faster than usual or has difficulty breathing, it can be overheated. You may also notice a change in their gums and tongue colour. If they turn bright red or even dark red, your pet may be suffering from heatstroke.

2. Is your dog drooling bucket-loads?

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Excessive drooling can be another sign of heatstroke. Evaporating saliva is another tool your dog’s body uses to cool itself down. A seriously overheating dog will produce more saliva and can become dehydrated. The further into overheating, the thicker the saliva.

Keep in mind that when the dog is seriously dehydrated, there is little to no saliva.

3. Is your dog looking lethargic?

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If your pet looks lethargic and doesn’t enjoy its favourite activity, it can suffer from heat exhaustion. Overheating can also cause dogs to nap more than usual or have trouble standing up or walking. When lightheaded from dehydration or heat exhaustion, your furry friend may struggle to walk in a straight line and bump into things.

If your dog is shivering or shaking regardless of the outside temperature, it may be caused by heat exhaustion.

4. Is your dog’s toilet business the same as usual?

-If your pet has trouble producing urine, it could be dehydrated or overheated. Abnormally soft stool, or stool with blood in it, is a big warning sign for heat exhaustion. Vomiting is another symptom to watch for.

5. Is your dog’s nose dry or too hot?

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Your dog’s nose can tell a lot about their condition and help you detect early signs of heatstroke. If it is dry and hot instead of wet and cool, your pet may be having a fever. A temperature above 39C is considered abnormal. If your furry friend has a dry nose, is visibly tired, and looks at you with sunken eyes, he may be dehydrated as a result of heat exhaustion.

How to prevent heatstroke?

Dog owners are advised not to walk their pets in temperatures exceeding 19C. If the dog ends up outside, it’s better to avoid anything that can exhaust the animal, like walking uphill, continuous running etc. Animals must have access to drinking water at any time. The dog has to be kept in a cool environment.

According to The Kennel Club, 1 in 7 dogs treated by vets for heatstroke die. To give a dog with heatstroke the best chance of survival, they need to be cooled down immediately and taken to a vet as soon as possible. If your dog loses consciousness or seems severely ill, vomiting or seizing, you must get to the vet immediately. When in doubt, call your local vet or an animal welfare organisation.

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