Heat Stroke in Older Dogs



This article is posted as part of PGAA’s curation efforts. This was originally posted at WayCoolDogs


Heat stroke in older dogs usually runs around 104 degrees or higher in body temperature. A summer killer that leaves many of us with the sudden summer death of our buddies of many years. And neglect was not always the culprit.

In our case, our black-and-tan long-haired dachshund, Holly Higgins, died from it. She was 14 years of age, obesity due to severe joint issues, and a sudden uterus infection. The weather that week was 90 to 100 degrees contained extremely high humidity…perfect for heat stroke in older dogs to develop.

The weather the morning of her death was cool and shady. I carried her outdoors and placed her on the shady grass with a bowl of cool water. She had been ill, and we were worried about her tremendously. The vet had told us several years ago she would not live over two years due to her age and health conditions. She gave us over six years, years we did not want to give up. The thought about being without her emptied our hearts out.

The summer heat stroke in older dogs heat added to her death, five days of continuous 95 degree heat, even though she didn’t die directly from it. Together with her old age and obesity, along with the uterus infection, made her death a guaranteed thing. But we fought nonetheless to keep her alive, bathing her in cool waters when her fever would rise for three days. But it still ended in tears and pain; Holly had been with us for 14 years. What more can we say? Our little parrot-mouthed dachshund who was part of many stories in WayCoolDogs.com., a favorite of many of our readers, is just a memory. (More on heat exhaustion.)

Accepting old dogs and ill dogs

We have a shelter for older dogs and dogs who arrive with medical issues, also at an old age. That is what we have chosen. We are like a care home for old dogs. The painful truth is that we always know they will soon be leaving us. Why? Because they arrive here old. And they usually arrive here unwanted, sick or with behavior issues. The number one fact is this: The ones who are sick usually, but not always, leave quicker. All together, these are the reasons we are doing what we are doing. But every summer is a real pisser for us, for sure.

Heat stroke in older dogs

Heat stroke in older dogs is totally different as compared to heat stroke in younger dogs. The old dog has different health requirements … a lot worse compared to health conditions that do not bother younger dogs… those that can kill old dogs.

  • When the heat begins to rise, an old dog can begin to develop heat stroke even if they are not directly in the sun and have access to water. High humidity adds to the difficulty for an older dog to breath in hot weather, especially if that older dog is obese.
  • The older dog’s heat stroke is deadly: sometimes it is difficult to see at first. It takes less for heat stroke for older dogs to develop because of the condition of the old dog. It could be obese, have severe joint issues, difficulty breathing, has developed disorientation, has difficulty in exercising, and has trouble eating. All of this influences the dog’s ability to handle severe heat.
  • Old dogs are a breed of their own, and needed to be treated in a special way. They walk a little slower, climbing stairs a little slower. In the heat of the summer, they find it difficult to even do this adequately. They just go down and wait for you to carry them. They find it difficult to breathe in high humidity weather.
  • Placing an old dog in the shade does not mean a thing in the summer if the humidity is high.
    • Barry Kellogg, VMD, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. “Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves, and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels-very quickly.”
  • Its best to have a room kept cool or keep the room air conditioned at 78 to 80 degrees. But a priority concern is if the electricity goes off; especially if your pet is old or even middle-aged. Many people use fans, but dog experts do not feel they keep the dog cool enough. All dogs keep cool by panting and through the pads of their feet. If this cannot occur, heat stroke in older dogs will occur rather quickly
  • Older dogs who have an outside shady doghouse can develop heat stroke pretty quick, due to the lack of air flow. Shady trees work much better or special tarps that allow air flow. We use black mesh tarps that block the sun but allow air flow for our four outside dogs. The rest are kept inside due to their size. By keeping older dogs in air flowed shade, heat stroke in older dogs will not occur as often.

Old dogs or dogs who are sick need to be treated with special kindness. They have difficulty walking, eating, urinating, going up and down the stairs, and handling the summer weather. It is easy to forget your old dog should be kept aware of at all times. Heat stroke in older dogs are just a small thing to worry about. Being left outside in the winter too long is also something to worry about. Exercising for too long of a time brings them home with achy legs and difficulty in walking for several days. These are just a few things to watch for. Old dogs are not young, and should not be treated as such. So if you have decided to take on the responsibility of an older dog, remember the long trip it consists of.

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WayCoolDog posts originally appeared on WayCoolDogs and are re-posted with the permission of Nancy Houser of WayCoolDogs © 2009 – 2016 WayCoolDogs.com..