Learn the Signs of Heat Exhaustion and What to Do for Your Dog

Signs of Heat Exhaustion, and what you can do

As the full heat of summer arrives, you may wish to go out with your pup to the beach or to your local park for some exercise! However, with the scorching heat comes a very dangerous threat to your pup that may not be noticeable at first. I will explain how heat exhaustion forms in dogs, the symptoms that should be observed, and most importantly, how to treat it if it happens.

How Heat Exhaustion forms in Dogs

Contrary to humans, dogs don’t have a means of dispersing their body heat by means of sweating. Dog’s don’t have a lot of sweat glands, and the few ones that dogs do have are located on the undersides of their paws! It creates a situation that is hard for your pup to cool off, especially on hot surfaces. Dogs also can breathe through their mouth as a means to regulate their temperature, but it is incredibly inefficient, and is no substitute for some refreshing water or a cool place to rest.

Heat exhaustion begins to form in dogs once their internal temperature exceeds 103 degrees. As their temperature increases up to 106 degrees fahrenheit, the risk of heat exhaustion grows to critical levels. This risk is also affected by your pup getting less water than they should, getting too much sunlight, or in the worst case scenario, being stuck in a location with little ventilation like a car or sealed room. Certain breeds, especially flat faced breeds like pugs, are especially at risk for heat exhaustion due to their breathing difficulties, so ensure that you are careful if your pup falls into this category! 

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

The main symptom that every pet owner should be aware of when looking for heatstroke is difficulty breathing and rapid panting. However, after identifying this symptom, you should further observe your dog for further symptoms. 

Often, another major sign of heat exhaustion is dehydration. When your pup is tired, they will pant more often, have eyes that are sunken in, and most noticeably, have a dry nose. If you have the materials for it on hand, you can also directly measure your pup. If their temperature reads above 103 degrees fahrenheit, they likely have heat exhaustion.

Pups that are suffering from dehydration also often have difficulty with peeing, being not able to pee or peeing very infrequently. As these symptoms continue, the pup will often begin to act lethargic, and often be very uncoordinated in their actions. 

Other than the symptoms that have been mentioned here, there are some more subtle signs that your pup is suffering from heatstroke that can be identified before it happens. One of these is a general dazed sense from your pup. They may seem like they are spacing out and are unalert, and will not respond to the commands you give them. Another easy way to check is to feel the dog’s temperature by hand. If their body or paws feel too hot, they are often too hot in reality. Left unchecked, these symptoms will get worse, and will eventually result in coma or death for your pup.

Ways to treat Heatstroke

The most important tip in treating heat stroke if your pup falls victim to it lies in the temperature of the water used to cool them down. DO NOT use cold or freezing water. If you do, the temperature differential can shock your dog and make them feel even worse! Attempt to give them water closer to the area around them, such as water you have kept in a water bottle that has gotten warm from being outside.

Another tip lies in moderation of water. Ensure to give your pup plenty of water if they get heatstroke, but make sure not to give them too much. Too much water can cause bloating problems, and stack another medical condition for your poor pup on top of the heatstroke. 

Another tip for treating heatstroke is to apply water around the ears and paws of your pup. Make sure they have cool airflow from a fan or AC, and let them rest. Check back on them in intervals of ten to fifteen minutes, in order to ensure their safety and recovery. Some owners may recommend wrapping a damp bandana around your pup’s neck, so they can cool off better.

If none of these methods work, then it is time to call the vet. Ensure that your pup is in a cool and safe place on the way there, and they should make a fine and healthy recovery from the professionals.

In other words, be prepared with lots of water when you go outside to play with your pup during the summer! Heatstroke can happen to any dog, anywhere. As long as you recognize these signs and know when to bring your pup back in, they should be safe!

Photo of author

Lovelia Horn

I’m a certified crazy dog mom, a physical therapist (for hoomans), writer, animal rescuer, and foster home provider. Together with my hubby Ryan, I’ve fostered and helped look for forever homes for over a hundred shelter dogs in the Southern Illinois area. I mostly work with Puppy Rescue 911, Inc., a certified animal rescue organization based out of Chester, IL (home of Popeye!)

Leave a Comment