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Heatstroke and the Role of Acupressure in Dogs

Updated: Aug 10, 2022

dog standing in the heat panting can overheat

As ambient temperatures approach the body's temperature, animals have a quite tough time keeping cool, particularly dogs, which only lose their body heat by panting. Panting moves all the cool air around the nasal passages and the body.

An ordinary respiratory rate for the dog is between around 20 to 30 breaths every minute. While panting, a dog can even breathe 200 to 400 times per minute - so it's important in rapidly cooling the air that can easily circulate through the dog's body. If the dog does not have access to open cool air, they have the risk of overheating.

Overheating can develop into heatstroke quickly, and heatstroke is undeniably a medical emergency. If you see any important signs of it, start first aid & get the pet to the hospital without any delay.

Before getting into the more deep knowledge of everything about heatstroke in animals and the role of acupressure, let's get familiar with its symptoms. So, here we go;

Main Symptoms of Heatstroke

Below are some possible symptoms of heatstroke:

  • Muscle tremors

  • The rectal temperature is more than 104º

  • Paled or Red-colored gums

  • Rapid panting and breathing

  • Thickened saliva and excess salivation

  • Staggering

Heatstroke in High Risk Dogs

Some dogs are higher risk for heatstroke than others. Below are some of the dogs that may need extra care and attention while outside.

pug running outside has risk of heatstroke

1) Your pooch is actually a brachy

Dogs, in general, do not have extraordinary cooling systems. Plus, they cannot sweat easily like human beings, & they can quickly heat up. And yes, specific breeds are more at risk: brachys or brachycephalics. Any pooch with a short nose and wide, far skull—think Pekingese, Pugs, Bulldogs Shi Tzus, and Boston terriers—will be even more susceptible to heatstroke.

That highly adorable and cute face has a lot crammed into little space. In particular, the crowding of the tongue, cartilage, and soft tissues restrict airflow to a great extent.

When it is generally scorching outside, it becomes even harder for them as they cannot breathe and pant like other dogs to cool down.

border collie working outside can get heatstroke

2) Your dog is hyper

Working-class breed members like Border Collies, Labs, and Golden Retrievers will work and play in the heat, not having any clue that they are overheating unless they collapse or subside.

While their intense, focused work ethic also makes them superb working dogs, pet owners should monitor these breeds closely to watch for the signs of heating. Sometimes these passionate animals will work until they physically can't any more.

fat dog is cooling off in the shade to prevent heatstroke

3) Your pup is pudgy

Yes, heat stroke is something to pay close attention to if your dog is carrying a few extra pounds. One research about treating heatstroke also revealed that obesity almost tripled the death risk to a great extent. The extra fat layers in overweight pups act as insulation & impede their cooling down ability.

4) The dog is bleeding

Well, bleeding can also be seen from any body surface if heat stroke is extremely severe. Hyperthermia can also cause the animal body to cease producing the needed proteins, which actually make a particular blood clot & this can even make it even more susceptible or receptive to toxins and bacteria. One heat stroke indicator is bloody uncontrolled diarrhea.

dog panting loudly shows signs of heatstroke

5) The dog is panting very loud

In general, dogs pant to regulate their body's temperature. If the panting sounds very harsh or louder, your dog may be at higher risk of heatstroke. If your dog seems to be working harder to breathe and has a wide-open mouth, it is another major symptom of heatstroke.

Beat the Heat — Prevention

Here are some prevention tips and what to look for when you notice heatstroke beginning to happen in your animals, specifically dogs;

  • Ensure that your dog has enough access to water everywhere he is.

  • If it's a non-emergency case, you can cool the dog down by adding ice to the water bowls, wet their chest, pads, or head, and fill a kiddie pool of cool water.

  • Ensure the dog isn't left in a sunny, hot area with little or no shade for a long time.

  • Always keep an eye on your dog in the summer months and look for the warning signs.

  • Provide a kiddy pool for them to cool off in while outside.

  • Limit outside play time during hot hours of the day and aim for the morning or evening times.

Danger Signs

Heat stroke generally occurs when your dog's body can no longer efficiently control its heat on its own. Indicators also tend to follow some progression, usually from mild to more severe:

  • Vomiting

  • Weakness

  • Frothy, excessive salivation

  • Agitation

  • Muscle-like tremors

  • Elevated heart rate

  • Frantic, loud panting

  • Loss of balance

  • Collapse

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Diarrhea

  • Dark purple gums

  • Seizure-like tremors

  • Elevated heart rate

  • Death

Role of Acupressure — Cooling Session

Particular acupressure points on the dog's body are known to boost his heat-releasing ability. Below are some of the acupoints that highly support the respiratory system & assist with panting to release heat while boosting the general capacity of the body to expel heat. Remember to use acupressure as a preventative care option! Don't try to use these points if the dog is showing current signs of distress, call your vet!

Use these points every day to support the body's natural ability to heal itself. You can hold each point 30-45 seconds with gentle finger pressure or gently massage the space with your fingers.

acupressure points shown on chart for preventing heatstroke

Governing Vessel 14

This acupoint is located on the dorsal midline of the dog at the neck base in front of the shoulder blades (scapula). This acupoint supports the respiratory system quite efficiently while also boosting the body's capacity to expel heat. It is used to clear all the heat from the whole body and prevent heatstroke.

Governing Vessel 20

GV20 is located at the dog's head top on the midline, almost between his ears. It has the ability of clearing all the extra heat, thus assisting the dog in releasing much internal heat. Moreover, it also calms the mind of the dog and helps reduce the anxiety in the dog.

Liver 2

Liver 2 is actually on the hind paws, on the webbing between the third and second digits on the paw top. (Note: On the hind leg, the dew claw is considered the first digit whether it's there or not.) This point is found on both sides of the body. It is called acupoint for calming the heart and cooling blood heat.

Lung 9

This point is located on its forelimbs, right below the wrist on the medial side (inside leg). Lung 9 is a fundamental acupressure point supporting lung function that promotes the arteries' energy and clearing heat. It can highly benefit all dogs who suffer from any internal heat level.

Acupressure Classes

Interested in learning more about acupressure? Come join us for an acupressure class with your dog! Sign up for our monthly newsletter to learn about upcoming classes! There are so many points that can benefit you dog and support their natural immune system, digestive system, emotional behaviors, and more!

Or, get your dog on a routine acupressure session program! Your dog will enjoy acupressure sessions with our Nationally Certified Animal Acupressure Practitioner. Sessions are calming and rejuvenating! Your dog will feel their best when they are supported by acupressure. We serve the Greater Charlotte Area, but can travel.

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