Signs of Heat Stroke
The following signs may indicate heat stroke in a dog:
Increased rectal temperature (over 104° requires action, over 106° is a dire emergency)
Dark red gums
Tacky or dry mucus membranes (specifically the gums)
Lying down and unwilling (or unable) to get up
Collapse and/or loss of consciousness
Dizziness or disorientation
What to do if You Suspect Heat Stroke
If you have even the slightest suspicion that your dog is suffering from heat stoke, you must take immediate action.
First, move your dog out of the heat and away from the sun right away.
Begin cooling your dog by placing cool, wet rags or washcloths on the body - especially the foot pads and around the head.
DO NOT use ice or very cold water! 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. In addition, over-cooling can cause hypothermia, introducing a host of new problems. When the body temperature reaches 103°, stop cooling.
Offer your dog cool water, but do not force water into your dog's mouth.
Call or visit your vet right away - even if your dog seems better. Internal damage might not be obvious to the naked eye, so an exam is necessary (and further testing may be recommended).
Tip: recruit others to help you - ask someone to call the vet while others help you cool your dog.
Preventing Heat Stroke
There are ways you can prevent heat stroke from happening in the first place.
NEVER leave your dog alone in the car on a warm day, regardless of whether the windows are open. Even if the weather outside is not extremely hot, the inside of the car acts like an oven - temperatures can rise to dangerously high levels in a matter of minutes.
Avoid vigorous exercise on warm days. When outside, opt for shady areas.
Keep fresh cool water available at all times.
Certain types of dogs are more sensitive to heat - especially obese dogs and brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds, like Pugs and Bulldogs. Use extreme caution when these dogs are exposed to heat.
Some dogs can recover fully from heat stroke if it is caught early enough. Others suffer permanent organ damage and require lifelong treatment. Sadly, many dogs do not survive heat stroke. Prevention is the key to keeping your dog safe during warmer weather.