Preventing Heatstroke: Warning Signs, Risks & Life Saving Actions for the Responsible Dog Owner

Heatstroke, also known as Hyperthermia, heat stress, or heat exhaustion, is a condition of increased body temperature above the accepted range.

Heatstroke can cause heat injury and other serious damages, and it mainly happens when the body’s exposure to heat and/or heat generation exceeds how fast the body can lose heat.

Heatstroke can occur in both humans and animals, but in this post, we will mainly discuss how to prevent and treat heatstroke in dogs and specifically American Bullies.

It’s very important to note that your American Bully cannot adapt its body to regulate body heat the same way humans can. We can obviously turn on the air conditioner or drink a cold beverage, which your dog can’t do by itself.

Also, humans have a lot of sweat glands all over our body, and excreting sweats is our body’s natural way to lower body heat. Dogs, however, only have very few sweat glands around their noses and in their feet. Also, the dog’s thick hair might also give it an increased risk of heatstroke.

Since your American Bullies can’t lower their temperatures quite easily, they mostly rely on panting and external cooling. So, as a responsible dog owner, we have to make sure we can provide these proper external cooling measures, as we will discuss further below.

First, let us learn the common symptoms of heatstroke in dogs, which is very important so we can react quickly and properly when it happens.

Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs

dog symptoms of heat stroke

Here are some of the most common symptoms of heatstroke in dogs. Knowing these symptoms is an important start, so we can know properly how severe the heatstroke is and which courses of action we should take.

1.) Excessive Drolling

If your American Bully suddenly produces a lot more drools than usual, or if the drool is stickier and thicker than usual, it’s a strong sign of heatstroke.

2.) Panting or Breathing Difficulty

When your dog is breathing much faster than normal (hyperventilation), it can be a sign of heatstroke. Dogs with flat faces including American Bully cannot pant as efficiently due to their nose shape, and so they are more susceptible to heat exhaustion.

3.) Dog Fever

The normal body temperature for dogs is between 101 and 102.5 °F, so a body temperature above 103 °F is considered feverish. Also, check your dog’s nose if it’s hot and dry.

4.) Dehydration Signs

Check for sunken eyes, dry nose, panting (hyperventilation), as well as any visible tiredness.

5.) Miscolored Gums

If your American Bully’s gums are a different color than normal: gray, blue, purple, or brighter red, then they could be dehydrated due to hyperthermia.

6.) Tachycardia (Rapid Heart Rate)

Place your hand on your dog’s chest, near their front leg joint and check for their heart rate. Keep in mind, however, that your dog’s normal heart rate will depend on its size: bigger dogs usually have a slower heart rate, and puppies can have very quick pulses.

7.) Vomiting and Diarrhea

Be very cautious if the stool and/or vomit has blood in it. It is a very strong sign of heatstroke.

8.) Lack of Urine

Lack of urine production is a sign of dehydration or overheating.

9.) Involuntary Muscle Tremors

Tremors are rhythmic and repetitive muscle movements that are involuntary, usually involving twitching of one or more body parts. If your dog is shaking in normal outside temperature, it can be a sign of heatstroke.

10.) Weakness and Dizziness

Heatstroke may cause your American Bully to sleep more than it normally would, and may have trouble walking or even standing. If the dog has trouble walking in a straight line, it might be due to dizziness from heatstroke.

How To Prevent Heatstroke in Dogs

preventing heat stroke for dogs

Now that we’ve understood the above symptoms, a bit of knowledge is actually enough to prevent our favorite pet from experiencing heat exhaustion.

First, it’s important to know that different dog breeds have different levels of tolerance against overheating.

Some breeds have a higher natural resilience to heatstroke, but some others-especially those with colder natural habitats like Husky or Alaskan Malamute–are more susceptible to heat exhaustion.

However, brachycephalic breeds with flat faces and short noses, including American Bully, are the most sensitive against heat due to their facial structure which causes them not to pant as efficiently as others.

Also, American Bullies are susceptible to the brachycephalic airway syndrome or BAS, which can cause the dog’s breathing to be extremely inefficient so they can’t cool themselves properly.

So, you should put in extra preventions for heatstroke for your American Bully (or other brachycephalic dogs). Below are some common both effective preventions so your American Bully can enjoy the summer without worry:

1.) Have a cool space for your dog

Make sure the space for your dog is well-ventilated, and if you leave your dog at home, keep the AC on during the hot summer (make sure it’s at least 75 °F). Alternatively, if you want to save money, you can set up electric fans to keep this space cool.

Maintaining good ventilation is very important here since your dog loses heat by panting, which relies on airflow.

2.) Don’t leave your dog in the car

Heatstrokes is the most common cause of death of hundreds of dogs left inside parked cars. Again, remember that the dogs can’t control their body heat as well as we can.

The temperature inside a parked car is, in general, 20 degrees °F higher than the outdoor temperature after the car is parked in 10 minutes, and can increase further by 40 degrees °F in total after just 30 minutes.

So, on an 80-degree day, the temperature in your car can reach 120 degrees °F after 30 minutes, which can easily kill your dog.

3.) Make sure they are properly hydrated

Always keep their water bowls full and refill from time to time. Remember that drinking water is one of the limited ways your dog can regulate their body heat.

4.) Avoid walking your dog at noon

Walk your dog in the evening or early in the morning to avoid the peak temperature hours. Take breaks in shaded areas and bring water if it’s a long walk.

5.) Keep them indoors during peak temperature hours

If you keep your dog outdoor, make sure they have access to proper shades and plenty of water. Bring them indoors during the hottest hours of the day.

6.) Avoid hot surfaces

Avoid asphalt, concrete, hot sand, or any other hot surfaces especially if there’s no access to shade.

7.) Board your dog during summer vacation

Leaving your American Bully at home during the hot summer can be very dangerous even if you have someone to come check regularly, or if you leave the dog with friends or family that are not properly informed about heatstroke in dogs.

Instead, ask a boarding facility to keep your American Bully in, which can give your pet a lot of attention (and possibly new friends) while keeping it safe.

Risk Factors for Heatstroke

Above, we have discussed how American Bully and other flat-faced dog breeds are more susceptible to heatstroke. However, there are other factors that might further increase your American Bully’s risk of suffering from heat exhaustion, namely:

  • Cardiovascular disease (heart problems, lung disease, etc.)
  • Breathing difficulties due to abnormalities like collapsing trachea, laryngeal paralysis, and other conditions
  • Neurological disease
  • Obesity
  • Age (too young or too old)
  • Long and thick hair coat
  • Excessive exercise (your dog is moving a lot throughout the day)

Heatstroke First Aid For Your Dogs

If you suspect your dog has suffered from heatstroke based on the symptoms above, you may want to perform these emergency first aid treatments to help normalize their core body temperature:

  • Move your pet into a cool, well-ventilated space. Remove them from the hot environment as soon as possible, this may worsen the hyperthermia.
  • Spray cool water onto the animal’s fur and skin slowly. Fan manually or use an electric fan to lower their body heat.
  • Even if your American Bully shows signs that they may be recovering properly, or even if you are not 100% sure it’s a heatstroke, the dog should always be checked by a professional vet. Heatstroke is an emergency and can be life-threatening.

Your vets can properly assess the severity of the heat exhaustion and provide proper medical treatment as required. If necessary, your dog might need an IV to regulate their body temperature and helps with hydration, as well as supplemental oxygen.

Summing Up and Recovery

It’s important to note that after a dog has suffered from heatstroke, they will be at an elevated risk for suffering from heatstroke again in the future.

So, it’s very important to take preventive measures and watch for potential factors that may contribute to heat exhaustion: excessive heat, dehydration, excessive exercise, lack of ventilation and shade, and so on.

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