Heat stroke in dogs

Recognising heat stroke and acting quickly is vital if a dog is going to survive. Often people underestimate how dangerous this condition can be, especially for a small dog like a chihuahua. The best course of action to take towards heat stroke is prevention. Ensure that there is always somewhere for your dog to take cover from the sun. It can be advisable to get something like outdoor dog kennels if you live somewhere that doesn’t provide a lot of shade.

Dogs don’t have sweat glands all over their body the same way people do. They have a few located in their paws, but the main way a dog will regulate their body temperature is through panting.

What is panting?

Panting is the rapid shallow breathing a dog displays usually with his tongue hanging out. This may be after a period of exertion after a game or a good walk. Panting helps regulate their body temperature as water evaporates off the tongue, from the inside of the mouth and the upper respiratory tract. As the water evaporates it helps to cool the body down.

Panting is perfectly normal and all dogs will do it. But some dogs are more predisposed to constant panting than others.

Brachycephalic dogs are more likely to pant, brachycephalic breeds are dogs with flat faces, like pugs and French bulldogs. Chihuahuas do come under this umbrella, some are affected more than others. Apple heads often have a flatter muzzle.

There are also a few other medical reasons why your dog will pant excessively:

  • Cushing’s disease.
  • Heart disease
  • Anxiety, stress or pain.
  • Anaemia

So, if it not overly warm and your chihuahua is panting heavily then maybe a check-up at the vets is in order.

The danger of heat stroke in dogs

Heat stroke can kill a dog very quickly and if you suspect your dog is suffering from it then you need to take immediate action. Brain damage and organ failure can occur within 15 minutes.

A dog can get heat stroke from being over walked on a hot day, being left in a confined space (like a car) or left in the yard with no shade. A hot car can kill a dog in 15 minutes, left in the sun with no windows open it can quickly reach 109 degrees.

It goes without saying that you must never leave your dog in car, even for a few moments. Chihuahuas are valuable, so as well as the risk of heat stroke they are at risk from thieves.

Signs your chihuahua has heat stroke are:

  • Heavy panting
  • Drooling
  • Dark red gums and tongue
  • Lethargy
  • Glazed and unresponsive.

How to treat heat stroke

You must seek emergency vet advice as your dog is likely to need intensive care. But, it is vital that you act to cool down your dog straight away. Doing this will give your dog a much better chance of survival.

  • Get your dog out of the heat and into the shade
  • Cool them down with fans or AC 
  • Cover them in damp towels (not too cold or they could go into shock)
  • Get them to drink little and often.

Prevention is better than cure

Avoiding the problem in the first place is best for everyone. If it is very hot then keeping your chihuahua at home is best.  Next, you need to remember that if it is too hot for you to walk barefoot on the pavement, it is too hot for your dog’s paws as well.

  • Make sure you have shade for your dog if he is outside on a hot day
  • Always make sure they have plenty of fresh, clean water.
  • Take water out with you on a hot day.
  • If you are on a long car journey and the sun is coming in through the window, put a shade up.
  • Avoid walking out during the hottest part of the day. Keep walks to shady areas and walk in the morning or evening.