In a nutshell, heatstroke occurs when a dog is subjected atmospherically to high temperatures so that might be where a dog cannot get out of the heat, for example if they are left in a car in warm weather – or perhaps if you have a “sun-worshiper” who just loves to be out baking his brain in the sunshine all day and doesn’t know when enough sun is enough.  In your capacity as responsible dog-owner, its up to you to try to make sure your dog doesn’t stay too long in the sun.

A great tip (courtesy of Lothlorien Dog Services: http://www.lothloriendogservices.co.uk/) is to provide a towel, soaked in cold water, spread out on the garden for them to lie on.  The cold towelling on their underside is very refreshing.

So, how long is too long?  Well, that depends very much on the individual dog and the strength of the sun, but things that can exacerbate this condition include:

* Old or very young animals
* Poor fitness levels / being over-weight
* Over-excitement
* Wearing a muzzle preventing panting
* Brachycephalic dogs – (short-faced breeds such as Pugs/Bulldogs) may have trouble cooling due to their compressed upper respiratory system.
Signs of heat exhaustion include:
  • heavy panting
  • hyperventilation (deep breathing)
  • increased salivation early then dry gums as the heat prostration progresses
  • weakness
  • confusion or inattention
  • vomiting or diarrhoea
  • lack of appetite
  • glazed/confused expression

As the condition progresses towards heat stroke there may be:

  • shallowing of the breathing efforts
  • slowed or absent breath efforts
  • obvious paleness or graying to the gums
  • vomiting and diarrhoea that may be bloody
  • seizures or coma
So, what should you do if you suspect your dog has heat exhaustion?
Protect from further heat and provide shade – generally speaking bringing them indoors is the best start.
Cool him down immediately with running water particularly on the chest, and paws, or provide a paddling pool.

Cooling off in the pool
Cover in towelling robe/towels soaked in cold water, if possible so that the underside of the dog is cooled too.
N.B: If you are using this method, please remember to re-soak the towel regularly as the heat from the dog will make the water on the towel heat up.  This heat layer will be trapped between the dog and the towel causing what is known as the sauna effect.
cool the dog with towelling robes soaked in water
Towelling robes soaked in water provide excellent cooling
The feet/face/chest are the most effective areas to cool quickly
Try wet flannels in the groin/armpit area
Offer lots of cool water to rehydrate though if he is already in full crisis with true heat exhaustion/stroke, then avoid ice cubes or iced water as this extreme cold can cause the blood vessels to constrict, preventing the body’s core from cooling and actually causing the internal temperature to further rise.
DO NOT plunge your dog into freezing cold water as this could easily send him into shock or even cause a heart attack.
DO NOT bring his temperature down too far.  Hypothermia is EQUALLY dangerous and once a dog’s temperature falls dangerously low, it will then continue to fall and be very difficult to bring back up.
It is vital that you seek emergency veterinary attention should your dog develop heatstroke as this can prove fatal.
Average Canine Temp:
The average temperature of a healthy dog is 101 °F (38 °C), however, the normal temperature of a healthy dog may range from around 99 °F to 102.5 °F (37.2 °C–39.2 °C).