Canines do not sweat. So, on hot, humid days, when their body temperature rises, they increase their respiratory rate to get rid of the excess heat that has built up in their bodies. In some cases, dogs are unable to pant fast enough to expel this heat. When this happens, their body temperature shoots up to alarmingly high levels causing heat exhaustion in dogs.
More importantly, this is the time when heat stroke sets in. The normal body temperature of dogs is 101°F. When heat stroke begins to set in, this temperature increases to 104 – 106°F, which is a moderate case. If the condition is not addressed with immediate medical intervention, then it does not take long for it to become severe, raising the body temperature over 106°F. In such cases, you only have a few minutes to save your pet’s life.
As it has been described in the above segment, when dogs are exposed to hot and humid conditions, they become vulnerable to heat stroke. Being left in a hot car, exercising strenuously in hot weather, playing under direct sunlight, being in a kennel outdoors in excessive heat, etc., are some common causes of heat stroke in dogs. Breeds with short noses, like pugs and bulldogs, are more vulnerable to this condition, as it is difficult for them to increase their rate of panting in order to lower their body temperature.
The very first symptom indicative of this condition in dogs is excessive panting. If you notice your pet panting more than usual, then there is enough reason to suspect that a heat stroke has started to set in. Other than excessive panting, bright red tongue, pale discoloration of the gums, unresponsiveness when his name is called, thick saliva, and vomiting are tell-tale signs of this canine health problem. Due to obvious reasons, the dog will face difficulty in breathing and heart rate will increase sharply. More severe signs of this condition include collapsing and coma. These couple of symptoms indicate that the condition has progressed to a near-fatal stage and thus, needs prompt medical intervention.
Course of Treatment
The moment any of these symptoms of stroke surface, you should move your pet away from the causal factor, i.e., away from the sun or car, and bring him in the shade. Soak a cloth with water and place it on him to begin with. It is extremely important to keep in mind that ice-cold or very cold water should never be used. Instead of treating the condition, this will only worsen it.
In fact, the use of ice-cold water may constrict its blood vessels and cause the internal temperature to rise further. (Moreover, exposure to extreme cold causes a fatal condition known as hypothermia.) Thereafter, offer your pet some water to drink. Again, not ice-cold! And do not force him to drink it. If you have any doubts about his condition, then take your pet to a vet for a checkup.
These measures will ensure that the condition doesn’t reach an irreversible stage, albeit temporarily. So, even if your pet seems better and is not showing any of the symptoms described above, you should still take him to a vet. After all, the risk of internal damage may not be visible to you, but it does exist.