Heat Stroke and Dehydration

How to recognize them and How to treat them

Our poor canines can't sweat away excess heat so they pant. Sometimes they're too hot for that to work and they suffer heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Dogs with the 'smashed in' faces like the Pug are especially susceptible to over heating.

Heat stroke can be a life-threatening situation so you'd want to get your dog to an animal hospital immediately.

Symptoms to watch for are stupor (acting drunk); seizure; bloody diarrhea or vomit; excessive panting and difficulty breathing; and collapse.

If his visual symptoms aren't clear to you, take his temperature - a body temperature 104-degrees F or above requires immediate veterinary care.

(See http://www.toybreeds.com/temperature.htm on how to take his temperature.)

If your dog hasn't reached that stage yet but seems overheated:

  • Get him out of the sun or hot area and into an air conditioned facility or at the least, into a shady area
  • Spray him with cool water for a minute or two
  • Place cool water soaked towels or rags on his head, neck, feet and chest
  • Turn on a fan and point it at him
  • Take his temperature every 5-minutes. Once he reaches 103-degrees F, stop the cooling treatment. He can take it on his own from there.
  • Get him to your vet or emergency animal hospital - some consequences of heat stroke or heat exhaustion don't show up immediately

The video below provides some nice tips on heat stroke in dogs.


Signs of dehydration include loss of skin plumpness, sunken eyes, lethargy, and abnormal capillary refill time.

The way to test capillary refill time is to push your dog's front lip up and press on his gum. The color should turn white and then pink again.

This should take about one or two seconds. If the pink color returns in less than a second or longer than three seconds, you need to get him to an emergency animal hospital.

Another test for dehydration is to gently lift the fold of his skin at the back of the neck. It should ping back straight down. If the skin stays slightly pointed up, he's seriously dehydrated and needs medical help. This works best on younger dogs. Older dogs and very skinny ones may lack skin elasticity so the capillary refill test above is a better indicator.

If your dog is not vomiting, you can give him some unflavored Pedialyte or Gatorade but do get him to a vet for examination.

Dehydration may not sound serious but it can lead to circulatory collapse and even death.

See my article at http://www.toybreeds.com/stayingcool.htm for tips on how to protect your dog in hot weather

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