First Aid for Dogs – Heat Stroke

As I am sure everyone is aware, heatstoke can be fatal. The onset of heat related symptoms can be very quick and can escalate into an serious emergency in a only minutes. First aid for dogs in these situations is essential.

If you see a dog struggling in a hot environments, it must be removed immediately!! It’s widely publicised that dogs can suffer heat stroke if left in a car on a hot day. Dogs can suffer from heat stroke in sunrooms as well, or on very hot days where they over-exercise and don’t have access to shade and water.  It is less common, but possible, for a dog to suffer from heatstroke in a hot yard or whilst exercising. The same first aid rules apply for any cause of heatstroke. Dogs should always have access to shade and water frequently.

There is no set time a dog needs to be in a car before it can suffer from heatstroke as it depends on the breed, age, weight of the dog and how hot the car is – however, it can be as little as minutes.  It should be noted that brachycephalic breeds (for example Pugs, Boston Terriers) may have a reduced ability to regulate body temperature via panting. You need to be even more careful with these breeds.

Dog left in the car

Dogs in heat distress or suffering from heatstroke may include:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Being very lethargic
  • Vomiting
  • A bright red tongue
  • Excessive panting
  • Disorientation
Oxygen cage used in treating dogs with heatstroke
Oxygen cage used in treating dogs with heatstroke

 

In the event of a dog suffering from heat stroke:

  1. Do anything you need to get the dog out of the environments as soon as humanly possible if they are suffering from heat or have any of the above symptoms. Remove your dog to an area in the shade or on cool tiles while you take the next steps.
  2. If possible, cover the patient immediately with cool wet towels.
  3. Offer the dog water but don’t be surprised if they don’t drink if the heat stroke is severe.  Not drinking should not be taken as a positive sign.
  4. Make your way immediately to the vet.
  5. Definitely do not immerse the dog in cold water, as this cooling effect can be too sudden.
  6. As with all emergencies, stay calm as your dog may pick up on your anxiety only making things worse.

Message from Dogs - Please don't leave me in a hot car

Dr Abbie Tipler, BVSc, MACVS (Surgery) Tipler, BVSc, MACVS (Surgery)

Dr Abbie is a Small Animal Veterinarian with 10 years full-time experience. Her passion is Small Animal Surgery and in 2011 she studied towards and obtained her Memberships in Small Animal Surgery from the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists. Although surgery is her special interest, she loves all aspects of General Practice, especially canine medicine. She lives with her family and two Ragdoll cats.