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This is a guest post by Ann Staub of Pawsitively Pets.

Although we live in a cooler part of the country, heat exhaustion in dogs is a concern during the summer.  The weather in the Pacific Northwest has been a lot warmer than usually.  We don’t see the 80s until August and only a week or so of those temperatures.  This year, we’ve had many hot days and I’ve been working hard to keep our dogs comfortable, including…

  • We walk the dogs early in the morning, before the day heats up
  • We open the windows in the morning to cool the house off (we don’t have AC, it’s not really needed in the Pacific NW)
  • Rodrigo got his annual trim; short enough to give him some relief from the heat, but not too short, because of the risk of sunburn
  • We are vigilant about making sure there is plenty of fresh water on hand
  • And the dogs get lots of cool treats; pumpkin/yogurt pops and cold raw bones are their favorite.

Even with these steps, heat exhaustion in dogs is something that we need to be educated about and prepared for with our pack.  Ann Staub of Pawsitively Pets shares tips on identifying and protecting our pets from heat exhaustion…

Playing Fetch, Puppy with a Ball

Heat Exhaustion in Dogs – What Every Dog Parent Needs to Know

What would you do if your dog overheated? Do you know the signs and symptoms to look for? Knowing the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion in dogs can help dog parents identify problems before they become a medical emergency. No one wants to take an unwanted trip to the veterinarian – especially your dog.

Dogs don’t sweat all over like humans. They only sweat through the pads of their feet and pant to cool themselves down. When a dog is unable to cool itself down, heat exhaustion or heat stroke may begin to set in. Unfortunately, some effects of heat stroke are irreversible and can cause internal organ damage which requires lifelong treatment. Sometimes, heat exhaustion is even fatal.

How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Fanklin

This is one of my favorite quotations because it couldn’t be further from the truth! Here are some very simple steps you can take to prevent heat exhaustion in your dog.

  • Don’t leave your dog in a hot car!

  • Always provide your dog with plenty of fresh cool drinking water.

  • If your dog is outdoors, make sure they have a shaded area to cool down at.

  • Avoid exercising and walking during the hottest time of the day.

  • Do not leave your dog on hot pavement.

  • If you take your dog to a groomer that uses cage dryers, make sure the dryers have timers on them in case someone forgets to turn them off.

Is My Dog Experiencing Heat Exhaustion?

I hope no one ever has to ask this question. As I mentioned above, knowing what to look for can help save a life. Heat exhaustion in dogs can result in death, so being able to identify symptoms early on is important. The early signs of heat exhaustion for dogs includes heavy panting, bright red gum color, vomiting, sticky saliva, a high rectal temperature (104 degrees or higher), disorientation, unwilling to get up, and dizziness.

If left untreated, these symptoms can rapidly turn into a medical emergency and the dog could go into shock. Worst case scenario is organ damage and death. It’s best to take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible if you believe they are experiencing heat exhaustion.

What to Do If Your Dog Overheats

If you think your dog is overheating, it’s always best to seek out veterinary care. There are some things you can do to help your dog until a veterinarian can be reached. Here are some important tips to remember to help get your dog’s body temperature down in case they become too hot.

  • Take your dog to an air conditioned building if possible. Place a cool fan in front of them.

  • Cool your dog down in water. Spraying or bathing your dog with cool (not cold) water can help lower their body temperature.

  • Place your dog in a crate with ice packs.

  • Use rubbing alcohol on your dog’s pads. Rubbing alcohol is very cool to the touch and helps when trying to cool a dog down. If you don’t have any alcohol, you can always use cool water.

  • Check their temperature. If your dog will allow you, try taking a rectal temperature every 5-10 minutes to make sure their temperature is stabilizing. A normal temperature for a dog is about 100-102.5 degrees. Anything above 104 degrees is too hot.

Even if you’re able to normalize your dog’s body temperature at home, you should still head to the vet for a check-up afterwards. Organ damage can still occur even though you can’t visually see it.


About the Author: Ann Staub is a former veterinary technician who has worked with dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, and small mammals. She has a special interest in exotic pet care. Now, she is a stay-at-home mother of two girls, a senior dog, a barn cat, a few goldfish and a pet rat. You can see more of Ann’s pet health articles on her blog – Pawsitively Pets.

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