Heat Exhaustion in Dogs: Signs and What to Do

heat exhaustion in dogs. a pug on the floor

It’s officially summer! While the outside temperature is optimal for enjoying the great outdoors with your family and fur babies, it can also be an opportunity for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke

Heat Exhaustion in Pets

Heat exhaustion occurs when a dog’s body temperature reaches over 103-degrees fahrenheit. Heat stroke (also known as hyperthermia) is when their temperatures reach 104-degrees or higher.

As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to monitor your pup while outside to ensure they do not experience overheating, which can result in more fatal effect such as a shutdown of the organs and heart.

Heat stroke, as defined by PetMD, is a type of non-fever hyperthermia that occurs when the “heat-dissipating mechanisms of the body cannot accommodate excessive external heat.”

Essentially, dogs do not sweat externally the same way as humans do, which is why they pant to keep cool. Sometimes, especially on hot days in the summer months, panting isn’t adequate enough to keep their body temperature regulated, resulting in heat-related illnesses.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

Symptoms of heat exhaustion to look out for include, but are not limited to:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive panting
  • Thickened saliva/drooling
  • Dizziness/wobbling
  • Irregular or rapid heart rate
  • Tremors/seizures
  • Little to no urination
  • Unconsciousness
  • Bloodshot eyes

Signs of Heatstroke

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Discolored/red gums
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle tremors
  • Collapse
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Lack of coordination (aka ataxia)

The greatest knowledge you can obtain is recognizing and preventing symptoms of heat stress before they become harmful or fatal.

How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion

dog in car

If you are traveling or know you will be outside in hot weather with your pet all day, always keep water on hand. Provide plenty of shade and make sure you are not outside with them during peak hours when the temperature rises.

If they require a great deal of exercise or have a lot of energy, try walking, running, or hiking with your pups early in the morning or late at night. You can also allow them to swim in a pool or lake to cool off while getting exercise at the same time.

Heat exhaustion doesn’t just happen outdoors or in summer! When in the home, make sure your pup has plenty of cool air — including air conditioning and fans.

Dog owners should never leave your dogs in an unventilated, hot car for any reason. Even a “perfect”, 70-degree day can transform a car into a 104-degree oven after just half an hour!

Similar to humans, keep a watchful eye on dogs that may be more susceptible to heat-related issues such as senior dogs, puppies, and dogs with medical condition that can worsen in heat (obesity, cardiac disease, brachycephalic breeds like bulldogs and pugs, or thick-coated breeds, etc).

Another risk factor to be vigilant of includes high temperatures mixed with humid days, which increases the likelihood of heat stroke.

How to Treat Heat Exhaustion

If your dog becomes heat exhausted, bring them inside or to a cool area immediately. To help stabilize them, you can place your dog in a cool (not cold) bath, dab them with wet towels, or pour cool water over their body to help bring their body heat back down. Also, give them the opportunity to drink plenty of cold water.

Simultaneously, call your vet so that they can advise you on additional steps to take. If suspected to be heat exhaustion or heat stroke, your DVM may ask you to come in to the animal hospital to administer fluids to help restore any minerals and liquids lost in the process. They will also monitor your pet for any complications associated with heat including kidney failure, dehydration, and shock.

The best things you can do are to be prepared, stay observant, and plan ahead when it comes to the heat and your fur friends. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinary hospital. In doing so, you and your pups can have a safe summer full of adventure!

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