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Temperature in dogs is regulated by the hypothalamus which is located in the brain. This regulation is through various mechanisms that will either stimulate production of heat or promote loss of heat.

When these mechanisms fail the two things may result

- Hypothermia  Body temperatures are lower than normal

- Hyperthermia (Heatstroke) This is when the body is unable to release enough heat to lower temperatures resulting in extremely high body temperatures

Causes of heatstroke

Heatstroke in dogs may result from:

- Leaving the dog in a closed car in hot weather with the windows pulled up

- Leaving the dogs outside in hot weather without shade and water

- Placing the dog in a poorly ventilated kennel

- Excess exercise in hot conditions

When heatstroke occurs, it is always an emergency condition that requires immediate medical attention. This is since high temperatures will cause internal damage that may not be seen from outside.

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Signs of heatstroke

- Shallow rapid breathing (panting)

- High rectal temperatures

- Pulse will be fast

- Vomiting

- Dog may seem disoriented

- Mucus membrane (gums) will appear dark red

- Loss of consciousness

If you suspect your dog has heatstroke immediately transfer him to a cooler place, you may splash cold water on him. Ensure that the water is not too cold to avoid causing shock. Find wet towels and place them on the neck and face. Call the vet, it is hard to assess internal damage by looking at the dog, even if he seems ok, have a vet confirm that the dog is fine.

When dealing with heatstroke in dogs, prevention is always better than cure. Prevention involves very easy steps

1. Ensure that you leave your dogs in a well ventilated and cool area. Do not leave the dog inside a closed car.

2. If at home, ensure the place where the dog is has plenty of air circulating and there is enough shade.

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3. Make sure that the dog’s water bowl always has water, especially in hot weather conditions.

4. Avoid extreme exercise for your dog in hot weather.


Some dogs are at a higher risk of suffering from heatstroke than others. These include:

- Puppies these are poor at thermoregulations and will easily succumb to extreme temperature.

- Obese dogs this is due to the underlying fat that may act as an insulator and prevent heat loss from the body

- Brachycephalic breeds such as the bull dog and pugs. Such breeds have compressed face thus a narrow respiratory system and breathing may be difficult for them.

- Dogs adapted to cold climates. These dogs may have thick coats and do not have good mechanisms that promote heat loss.

In dealing with heatstroke in dogs, vets may inject cold I.V fluids or perform a rectal enema with cold water. If temperature has exceeded 106oF, the internal damage may be irreversible and death will result in a few minutes.

Due to the graveness of heatstrokes, it is important to ensure that you keep your dog in cool and well ventilated areas to avoid this condition.

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