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

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.


  1. Great tips Kimberly! I’m still amazed at the amount of people that are just clueless, especially with all the education circulating the web and in public. Simple amazing. Thanks for sharing!

    • I’m blown away by the people who still lock their dogs in cars on hot days. Wow!

  2. Such great information. I had to stop a guy at the park last week who was jogging with his dog and the dog looked like he was going to pass out, I kid you not. We gave the dog water and he said he didn’t realize and was listening to his ipod. Ugh. In any case, he walked away, I saw him get into his car, put the windows up and air conditioning on and drive away.

    • You are such a hero! Thank goodness you said something and helped the jogger be more aware. Many people in our area tend to mind their own business. I may not like someone’s tone or I may not be in a place to receive feedback about myself – but when it comes to my dogs, I want it all, because they mean the world to me.

      Thanks for speaking up.

    • That’s really awesome of you to stop and offer some help to that dog Carol. I don’t think that’s something many people would have the courage to do. Maybe next time, the owner will be more aware of what’s going on.

      • Thanks, Ann and Kimberly. It was obvious the dog was in distress and I knew the guy was clueless. I knew he also could tell me off, and I just let that roll off my shoulders. I figured if I am polite and stop him nicely, maybe he would listen. And he did. I hope maybe he watches more closely next time. It was almost 100 degrees most days here last week and the fact he was jogging at that hour with his dog floored me.

  3. Thanks for letting me contribute today on Keep the Tail Wagging Kimberly! I hope these tips are useful for dog lovers everywhere. :)

    • My pleasure!

  4. I’m so sorry Ann. I totally missed that first sentence. Ugh…. snack me please! Fabulous tips that I’ve passed along. People just don’t get it!

    • No worries Bren and thank you! I agree with you that these tips can’t be stressed enough for dog parents. Many people out there are still clueless. Accidents can even happen to the best of us too.

    • Nope, you didn’t miss it – I added it after you commenting. *wicked laugh*

      • Ahhh that’s not cool messing with an older chic like me! :)

  5. Wonderful information, thank you for sharing.

  6. Amazingly fantastic post! Thank you Ann and Kimberly. I took a 20-minute nap in my car today during lunch and had all my windows rolled down. It was a 75-degree day today and when I woke up I was drenched and my car was burning up since there was no shade to park under. The first thing I thought was “Thank goodness I don’t have Kayo with me right now.” I hope these articles extend very far and very wide to that people learn the dangers of leaving their dogs in the car.

    • That’s such a fantastic example of why it’s great that I’m leaving our dogs home. Wow!

    • I used to do the same thing in my car at work. Then it started getting way too hot and it just wasn’t something I could do anymore. I guess I’ve never really compared that with leaving pets in cars before.

  7. OK…I did not know all the symptoms so THANK YOU Miss Kimberly and Miss Ann for sharing such important information. Hopefully, I will never get heat exhaustion since we are very careful over here to not be outdoors when it is really hot!

    • Ann rocks! It’s been fun playing closer attention to our dogs (they love it). We don’t take them on car rides or long walks on hot days, so their risk is minimal – but that’s no excuse for me to become complacent. I love learning something new.

    • Thanks so much Oz! I hope the same for you, but it never hurts to be prepared.

  8. I am sure liking the sun and warn weather we have been getting but I have had to cancel some of our hikes because it is too hot for Chester and Gretel. I have been feeling the pavement with the back of my hand for 7 seconds when we go on our walks a lot more than I have needed to before too.

    • The temperature of the ground is something I’ve never considered – we usually just stay home. I’m going to head out to the Centennial Trail today to see the temperature feels like.

  9. Useful information. That’s why always make sure to keep my dogs cool and comfortable. You’ll never know.

    • So true.

  10. Thanks for all the great information. However, I think that “Don’t leave your dog in a hot car!” should say “Don’t EVER leave your dog in the car.” Even if it is not hot outside, it can get really hot inside. Not only might it be illegal, you also have to worry about someone teasing your dog, letting him out or stealing him out of malice, or taking him because they think you are being cruel.

    My dog Pierson has long hair, but I don’t trim it. I’ve heard quite a few cons about trimming long-haired double-coated dogs and so have opted not to do it. Instead, I brush him regularly in order to thin out some of that double coat.

    • OMG – Dawn, that’s awful. I’m lucky to live in a dog lover town. If someone teased our dogs, another person would step in to protect them. We did have a case where a woman kidnapped a dog from someone’s yard, because she thought she was rescuing the dog; she wasn’t and she went to jail.

      I do bring our dogs in the car with me regularly except when it’s 70 degrees or warmer, because we have to drive to the trails where we walk them. I’ll stop by Starbucks and go through the drive through on the way home, and if I’m running to the nursery, they’ll jump in the car to join me. I can leave the windows down and the most that will happen is that someone will pet them. I’m very lucky; but I can also see the car the entire time.

      It’s not illegal in our city to have your dogs in your car; it’s illegal to have them in your lap while driving. I think it should be illegal to leave dogs in locked cars, even with windows cracked. It drives me nuts when I see people doing this – just leave them at home. I know how tempting it is, but it’s just not worth the risk.

    • Good points Dawn! I do believe there is an ordinance where I live that says dogs can’t be left unattended in cars. Regarding the fur thing, I just got done researching and writing a little bit about it. It is a controversial topic and I’m not sure which side I stand on regarding it. I think it could go either way as long as you’re taking good care of your dog.

      • You’re absolutely right, Amy. :0)

  11. I live in Houston, Texas and it gets Super hot here. We have days where the temperature reaches 102 degrees or above. I don’t like leaving the dogs outside. I make sure to walk them outside and as soon as they are done i bring them in. But i am glad i read this i wouldn’t have known what to do if one of them got heat exhaustion.

    • Glad that it’s helpful, Jason!

    • Hi Jason – I am located in Austin, TX so I know just how hot it gets here. Glad you find the tips helpful!

  12. These are all great points. Thanks for posting.
    I loved it.

  13. I couldn’t resist commenting. Well written!


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