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Heatstroke happens when the normal body mechanisms can't keep the temperature in a safe range. Dogs can get overheated very easily because they don't have very efficient cooling systems.
Dogs do not sweat to regulate body temperature. They fluff their fur to circulate cool air to the skin. Dogs pant as a primary method of cooling off. The rapid exchange of cool outside air with warm, humid air inside the lungs, plus the evaporation from the lolling tongue, helps keep a dog's temperature in normal ranges.
When the outside air temperature is equal to or higher than a pet's body temperature, evaporation won't help and heatstroke can occur. A pet with moderate heatstroke will have a bright red tongue and gums and thick, sticky saliva, and the dog will pant rapidly. Most pets will recover within an hour if you give them prompt first aid.
Body temperatures higher than 106 degrees can be deadly. A pet can go into shock and may develop failure of the liver, kidneys, lungs, heart or brain. His gums may turn pale, and he'll act weak and dizzy and develop a bloody nose, bloody vomiting and diarrhea. They can fall into a coma when the brain begins to swell. At temperatures of 107 degrees and higher, pets develop disseminated intravascular coagulation, a condition in which the blood clotting system fails. They'll die without immediate first aid and vet attention.
Dogs with flat, pushed-in faces like English Bulldogs, Pugs and Pekingese also tend to have foreshortened windpipes, so they can't breathe as efficiently as longer nosed dogs. These dogs can suffer heatstroke just by over-exercising, even on a relatively cool day, and they often have problems in weather that wouldn't bother other dogs. You'll know your pet is at a higher risk for heatstroke if he often snores or snorts or makes a lot of respiratory noises, like whistles or wheezes.
Common situations which predispose to overheating or heat stroke in dogs are:
Emergency measures must be taken at once. Mild cases respond to moving the dog to a cooler surrounding, such as an air-conditioned building or car. If his temperature is over 104 degrees F, or if unsteady on his feet, he should be cooled by immersing him in a tub of cool water. If this is impossible, hose him down with a garden hose. For a temperature over 106 degrees F, or if he is near to collapse, give him a cold water enema. A more rapid temperature drop is imperative.
Heat Stroke can be associated with swelling of the throat. This aggravates the problems. A cortisone injection by your veterinarian may be required to treat this.