Heat Related Illness in Dogs

Heat-related illness in dogs typically takes one of two forms: heat exhaustion or heatstroke, also called hyperthermia. Since heat-related illness can quickly become a medical emergency, it's important to know what the symptoms look like and what to do before your dog becomes ill.

Symptoms of Canine Heat Illness

Heat exhaustion can quickly escalate into heatstroke if it isn't treated promptly. Heat exhaustion can affect your dog's digestive system, causing diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. It can also affect his skin, causing it to turn red, and it can make him breathe faster.

Heat stroke, which can be fatal without treatment, affects more systems in your dog's body. His neurological system may be impaired, which can cause him to be confused or to walk erratically. His heart may beat faster, he may lose consciousness or he may drool. Your dog's temperature will likely be above 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

Causes of Heat Illness in Dogs

Heat-related illness is most often caused by a dog being left in a too-hot environment for a long period of time. These environments could include:

  • A parked car with the windows shut and the air conditioning turned off
  • A greenhouse or sunroom
  • An unshaded asphalt or concrete dog run
  • An unshaded beach or shoreline
  • An unshaded yard

Other contributing factors to heat illness can include obesity, overexertion or high stress levels.

How to Help Your Dog Feel Better

If you suspect your dog has heat exhaustion, it's important to lower his body temperature. You can do this by moving him to a cool spot in your home, such as in front of a fan, and give him fresh water. Mist him with lukewarm water and let his coat dry gradually.

If you suspect your dog has heatstroke, wet him down with cool water from the hose. Don't use extremely cold water or you may send your dog into shock by causing his body temperature to drop too quickly. Let your dog's coat remain wet because it will help cool him further.

Once your dog's temperature is about 104 degrees Fahrenheit, transport him to your veterinarian's office or an animal emergency clinic for further treatment. Keep him sitting or standing during the trip to prevent blood clots from forming.

Veterinarian Treatment

Once your dog is at the vet's office or an animal emergency clinic, he will continue to have his temperature monitored. He will also be checked for complications that could affect his heart, kidneys, lungs or other organs. If your dog has had heatstroke, he will be at risk to develop it again, so you will need to monitor his condition on hot, humid days to prevent a recurrence.

How to Prevent Canine Heat Illness

Preventing heat illness in your dog is a relatively simple process. Provide your pet with plenty of fresh, cool water on hot days, and make sure he has a shady spot in which to escape the heat. Limit his exercise periods on hot days, and make sure he's well-groomed to prevent excess heat from being trapped in his coat.

Never leave your dog in a parked car on a hot day. Interior temperatures in a car can quickly rise to dangerous levels, so you may want to leave your dog at home if you need to run errands on a hot day.