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Heat Exhaustion in Dogs


Pet Care – Signs and Treatment of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

Summer is a great time to be with your dog enjoying family outings, trips to the dog park or simply lounging in the sun. With the warmer temperatures and higher humidity, just be aware that your dog can be at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Dogs wear a winter coat year round and sweat only through their nose and paw pads, so they’re more susceptible to heat than we are. In addition to heat and humidity, there are a number of other factors that can predispose your dog to heat related illnesses including: muscular activity, being over-weight, older age and dehydration. In the end, your dog can’t tell that it’s overheating so it’s your job to be alert to the warning signs.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy panting, rapid heartbeat, staggering caused by dizziness, confusion or inattention, and vomiting. As the condition progresses towards heat stroke there may be obvious paleness or graying of the gums, shallower breathing, vomiting and diarrhea, and finally seizures or coma. Any combination of these symptoms should signal you to immediately take action to cool your dog’s body temperature.

Treatment Steps

If your dog does overheat, do not immediately go to the veterinarian as a few minutes without treatment may have serious consequences. You can initiate treatment by taking some of the following steps.

  • Lower your dog’s body temperature gradually by immersing him in a bath tub of COOL water or soaking him with a hose – avoid extremely cold water which will not allow a meaningful heat exchange to take place
  • Move your pet into an air conditioned or shaded location and give him small amounts of cold drinking water or ice cubes
  • Hold bags of ice or cool wet towels against the neck, head and groin
  • Place your dog in front of a blowing fan to keep the coat moist
  • Do not cover with a wet towel as this prevents evaporation
  • Once the dog is cooled, seek immediate veterinary care
  • During transport, turn the A/C on or leave the windows open.  Do not place your dog in an enclosed crate which can inhibit evaporation


If a heated related emergency happens, remember to stay calm but act decisively! Once you’ve begun treatment, make sure to call your Vet or the closet Emergency Clinic to let them know that you’re on the way.

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