Dogs love spending time outside with their owners, but during summer months, high temperatures can put your best friend at risk for heat exhaustion. Although you should always strive to avoid excessive heat and keep your dog cool, your pet can still fall prey to rising temperatures sometimes. So, before you hit the trail for a warm weather hike, you should know how to recognize and what to do for a dog with heat exhaustion.
What Is Heat Exhaustion?
Because they only have a few sweat glands in their foot pads, dogs pant to cool down their body temperature, which makes them susceptible to heat stress. Heat exhaustion, also known as hyperthermia, occurs when dogs overheat and can’t regulate their body temperatures. If a dog’s body temperature reaches or exceeds 105 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s considered heat stroke and can result in raised blood pressure, kidney failure and other permanent organ damage, which may be fatal. Heat illness in dogs should be treated immediately, especially for flat-nosed breeds with an increased risk of breathing problems. Learning what to do for a dog with heat exhaustion can make the difference.
Although it may be tempting to keep your dog inside when the outside temperature soars, you can reduce the risk of illness by using a few preventive measures:
- Never leave your dog alone in a closed car. Even with windows cracked, the interior can quickly reach a dangerous temperature, especially in direct sunlight.
- Avoid muzzling your dog. Muzzling can restrict your pet’s ability to pant, increasing the chance of overheating.
- Limit your dog’s outdoor time during hot weather. If your dog must be outside for an extended period, make sure it has a shaded area to rest.
- Give your dog plenty of fresh, cool water.
- Avoid long walks during the hottest parts of the day. Stick to early morning and evening outings on a hot day.
- Leave the air conditioning on when you’re out. On hot summer days, your home can quickly get uncomfortable.
- Know the contributing factors to heatstroke in dogs, which include obesity, poor fitness and breed makeup.
Recognizing Heat Exhaustion in Dogs
Symptoms of heat exhaustion in dogs vary, and because some symptoms can be difficult to notice, it’s important to stay vigilant. Warning signs may include:
- Continuous or excessive panting
- Labored breathing
- Excessive drooling
- Rapid pulse
- Trouble urinating
- Weakness or lethargy
- Shivering, shaking or muscle tremors
- Dark pink or gray gums
- Dry nose or sunken eyes
- Fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
If your dog has heat stroke, you may notice more severe symptoms, such as:
- Glassy eyes
- Dark red gums
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Staggering or collapse
How to Treat Heat Exhaustion and Lower Body Temperature
Even in otherwise healthy pets, heat stroke in dogs is a medical emergency. If your pet loses consciousness or exhibits severe symptoms associated with heat stroke, immediately seek care at a veterinary hospital. However, if your dog shows mild signs of heat exhaustion, get it to a cool spot immediately and begin treatment, as follows:
- Lower your dog’s internal body temperature slowly by wetting your dog thoroughly with cool — but not cold — water. If you have a puppy or a toy breed, lukewarm water is a better choice. Pay special attention to your dog’s ears and paws to reduce fever, and never use ice packs or place wet towels over your pet, which can cause it to retain heat.
- Provide small amounts of cool water for your dog to drink. Don’t add ice or let them gulp it down.
- Monitor your dog’s rectal temperature using a pet thermometer. Once the dog reaches a normal temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit, stop applying water.
- Dry your pet using a gentle fan.
- Seek veterinary care. Even if your pet seems okay, it should be monitored for complications. This is especially true for older dogs and those with underlying medical conditions, such as heart disease.
Safe Summer Fun Through Proper Training
Summer can be a great time to enjoy dog sports and other outdoor fun with your four-legged friend, but a responsible pet owner puts safety first. Making sure your dog receives proper training is a good first step. The Dog Wizard’s experienced trainers can provide basic obedience dog training or work on behavior modification to handle issues such as aggression or separation anxiety.
With 36 locations across the Eastern United States, you’re sure to find The Dog Wizard in a neighborhood near you. Learn more about our services by calling (877) 585-9727 or visiting us online.