Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

Heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, can occur when your dog's body temperature rises too far above normal levels. Dogs are particularly prone to heat exhaustion, especially during the hot summer months, and it can be fatal. Here's what you should know about heat exhaustion in dogs.

Why Dogs Are Vulnerable to Heat Stroke

Dogs don't sweat. They release heat from their bodies through the pads of their feet and through the nose, but mostly by panting. When a dog pants, air passes over the tongue, cooling the blood that flows through the muscle. That cooled blood then recirculates throughout the body.

Because dogs cool their bodies in this way, they aren't equipped for hot temperature. If your dog gets too warm, he could easily suffer from heat exhaustion.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke in Dogs

If your dog suffers from heat stroke, he may exhibit any of the following symptoms:

  • Increased body temperature
  • Drying out of the mucous membranes in the mouth, nose and eyes
  • Excessive panting
  • A dark red color to the gums
  • Unwillingness to stand up
  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation
  • Thickening of saliva
  • Collapse
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Death

Treating Dog Heat Exhaustion

If your dog suffers from heat stroke, immediate first aid is essential to his treatment.

  1. The first thing you should do is take your dog in out of the heat. If you can't take him into an air conditioned place, take him into the shade.
  2. Cool your dog by placing wet rags on his head, feet and torso. Use cool, not cold, water. If the water is too cold, your dog could go into shock. You can place your dog in front of a fan to help cool him.
  3. Give your dog cool water to drink. Don't force him to drink the water. He should feel thirsty once he revives.

Seek veterinary care even if your dog doesn't seem to have suffered from any long lasting effects from heat exhaustion. Your dog may have suffered internal injuries you can't see.

Preventing Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is easy to prevent. Never leave your dog in a car on a hot day, and if you leave him in a car on a cool day, leave the windows rolled down a few inches to allow for adequate air circulation throughout the vehicle. Park your car in the shade if you must leave your dog, to further protect him from heat exhaustion.

Avoid strenuous exercise during the heat of the day, especially if you have a brachycephalic dog. Walk your dog in the early morning and in the evening, when it's cooler. The same goes for playing with your dog.

Make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water at all times and keep him out of the heat as much as possible. If your dog must be outside during the hot part of the day, give him a shelter. A shady area is ideal. If you give your dog an outdoor house, make sure to check the temperature inside of it during the hottest part of the day, to ensure that it isn't getting too hot for your dog.