Heat Exhaustion in Dogs
By Tamara Kees
July is Summer Safety Month here at Fairgrounds Animal Hospital, and we’d love to keep you in the know about a serious and sometimes fatal condition these hot days can bring: heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Every summer we admit several dogs who have been overheated and are in serious trouble. For some, it’s already too late to save them. We don’t ever want to see our clients and patients suffer from this preventable tragedy, so today we’ll discuss how to detect heat exhaustion, what to do if you see your dog in distress from overheating, and ways you can make sure it never happens to your furry family members!
Heat exhaustion in dogs and heatstroke can happen if a dog overexerts herself in the heat of the day, is left in a hot car, or doesn’t have good access to shade or water in a sunny yard. Dogs with long fur, short noses, and young dogs are especially at risk. Unlike us, dogs sweat very little, so they can become overheated much faster than we can. Within 15 minutes of overexertion, overexposure to the sun, or being stuck inside a car on a hot day, a dog’s temperature can surpass 104 degrees Fahrenheit and they can develop heatstroke. They may foam at the mouth or drool excessively, their gums may turn red or muddy pink, they may stumble or collapse, and may suffer from acute diarrhea. If they are not promptly removed from the heat and properly treated, they may lose consciousness, suffer organ failure, and die. Sometimes when signs are severe, it is already too late.
If you see any of these symptoms in your dog after overexertion on a hot day, or prolonged exposure to the sun or heat, act quickly to potentially save their lives! Move your dog to a shaded, cool place with a fan if possible, and offer cold water to drink. Soak towels in cold water and lay them over your dog’s body. The paws, abdomen, armpits, and ear flaps are especially important to wet and cool. Do not use ice, as this can worsen the issue and cause more damage. Take your dog’s temperature rectally with a thermometer. After you have cooled your dog for a few moments, call your veterinarian, explain the situation, and follow their advice—but if symptoms are severe, or the temperature exceeds 104 degrees, your dog is beyond heat exhaustion. Do not hesitate to bring them to your veterinarian immediately!
To prevent heat exhaustion in dogs and heatstroke, follow these tips:
- Always provide plenty of shade and water on hot days
- Never leave a dog in a hot car, for any amount of time
- Exercise your dog in the early morning or evening hours on hot days
- Consider providing a kiddie pool for cool fun in the backyard!
Have a fun and safe summer, from Fairgrounds Animal Hospital!