Heat stress in dogs: the unknown danger

It's the same every year. We humans look forward to longer hours of sunshine and rising temperatures in spring and summer. The summer months are far less pleasant for our four-legged friends, because dogs are very sensitive to heat! A high ambient temperature (still pleasant for humans) is particularly dangerous for them, because unlike humans, dogs can not regulate their body temperature by sweating.


" Dogs regulate their body temperature by giving off heat directly by panting. From an outside temperature of around 28-30 ° C, this mechanism is no longer sufficient and the body temperature begins to rise. "
Veterinary University of Hanover


When a dog's body temperature rises above 40 ° C and its self-cooling mechanisms - such as panting - are overwhelmed and no longer work properly, heat stroke sets in.

Unfortunately, it's not just a dog's thermoregulation system ("cooling") that fails when it comes to heat stroke. As the condition progresses and body temperature continues to rise above 40 ° C, most body systems fail . These include the important neurological, urinary, circulatory and anticoagulant systems as well as the digestive tract. If these systems fail, the chance of regeneration after a heat stroke is very low.

Because avoiding heat stroke is critical, everyone should know and keep an eye on the "early warning signals". If you know these warning signs of heat stress and heat exhaustion , you can take appropriate measures before a potentially fatal heat stroke occurs.


Signs of heat stress

The first clinical symptoms of overheating are as follows:

  • persistent, strong panting

  • possibly increased salivation

  • The inner skin of the ears is very red and hot

  • Dark red gums and tongue

  • often the neck is elongated and the tongue hangs far out

  • Restlessness, nervousness to panic

  • Fluctuating gait

Signs of heat stroke

Here too there are different levels and degrees of severity of these signs and not all of them will be present in every case. Also note that the characters below are in addition to the heat stress and heat depletion information above and there is significant overlap.

The transition from heat stress to heat stroke can be fluid and fast:

  • breathing becomes faster and shallower (tachypnea)

  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) occurs

  • severe reddening (light red) of the mucous membranes and tongue

  • the animal becomes increasingly apathetic (apathetic)

  • shows wobbling movements, balance disorders

  • possibly accompanied by vomiting and / or bloody diarrhea

  • body temperature rises to over 40 ° C

  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)

  • Bruising of the skin or gums (these small, selective bruises, called "petechiae", are often most clearly visible in the ears or on the underside of the abdomen)