Heat Stroke vs Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

When the weather is warm, it is important to keep your pets cool to avoid heat exhaustion or often fatal heat stroke. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke if you do not act quickly when your pet begins to show signs that they are too hot. Because pets do not sweat like people, they can easily overheat and rely on their human companions to cool them down.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion

One of the first signs of heat exhaustion is heavy panting. If your pet begins to pant heavily, be sure to give him plenty of water, keep him out of the sun and give him ample time to regain his strength. Dogs release heat only through their feet and by panting so it takes more time to bring their body temperature down. Pets may also misjudge when it is time to take a break. The excitement of being out and about may cause them to ignore the need to take it easy. 

It is also important to keep in mind that dogs are wearing fur coats. Some breeds, such as Alaskan Huskies, Chow Chows, and Shelties, have extra thick coats and should be watched even more carefully for signs of heat exhaustion. Short snouted breeds, such as Boxers and Pugs, can have difficulties breathing in high heat and should also be monitored closely.

Additional signs of heat exhaustion include weakness, confusion, and/or vomiting. If you pet has any of these symptoms, a visit to a veterinarian is likely in order. In the meantime, provide water and a cool resting place. You can also dampen a towel and place it around your pet's neck to help speed the cool down process. Cool, not ice cold water, is usually recommended, however ice packs can be placed on areas of high circulation such as the armpits and neck.

Signs of Heat Stroke

In addition to the heavy panting and disorientation that often comes with heat exhaustion, the signs of heat stroke are more dramatic and require immediate medical attention by a veterinarian. Diarrhea may be one of the first indicators that your dog is suffering from heat stroke. Diarrhea may then be followed by seizures or coma. At this stage, pets often do not survive. Even if your pet does not experience some of the more extreme symptoms, a visit to a veterinarian is still recommended as many pets can develop heat related complications at a later time.

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke Prevention

The best way to prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke is to avoid exposing your pets to high temperatures altogether. Be sure to provide plenty of fresh water at all times. Walk your dog in the morning or late evening when temperatures are lower and the sidewalk is cooler. Do not leave pets outside unattended, tethered or chained and exposed to the sun. Never leave a pet alone in a vehicle. Many people do not realize how dangerously hot a car can become in just a few minutes. It is best to leave pets at home rather than risk their safety.