This is general information only gathered from various resources and is not intended as veterinary advice. Please consult a veterinarian if you have concerns about the health of your dog.
Dogs that are at higher risk for heat exhaustion and heatstroke include breeds with shorter snouts (e.g. Shih Tzus, Pugs, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Bulldogs) and those with weaker bodies like older dogs, young puppies, and ill dogs.
Dogs cool themselves by panting to maintain their normal body temperature (101 to 102.5 F ; 38 to 39 C). Dogs can sweat through their noses and pads but this doesn’t do much to cool them. Overheating can cause severe tissue damage in minutes, affecting important organs like the brain, kidneys, liver, and the digestive system in minutes.
Heatstroke occurs when the dog’s temperature reaches 109 F (42.8 C) or above.
Symptoms can include:
- Heavy panting (often accompanied by a refusal to drink)
- spoon-shaped tongue can be an early sign of dog overheating
- Excessive thirst
- Glazed eyes
- Vomiting and bloody diarrhea
- Bright or dark red tongue, gums
- Elevated body temperature (104ºF and up)
- Weakness, collapse
- Increased pulse and heartbeat
- Excessive drooling
What to do:
Move dog out of heat and to the shade or air conditioning. Keep offering water. Sometimes dogs are panting too heavily to want to pause for a drink, but keep it available for when the dog wants it.
If the dog can stand and is conscious,
- give small drinks of water (too much too fast can cause vomiting)
- Take temperature. If the dog is 104 F (40 C) or lower, continue to monitor temperature
- contact vet for further instructions even if dog seems recovered
If the dog cannot stand, seems unresponsive, or if the dog is having seizures:
- confirm the dog is breathing it has a heartbeat
- stay with dog (don’t try to immobilize a dog having seizures, just supervise to keep the area around the dog clear to avoid injury to the dog and anyone nearby; time the seizure and observe details that your vet may ask you about)
- notify vet that you are bringing in the dog
- begin to cool the dog gradually with COOL water (NOT COLD water) by placing wet towels or gently pouring COOL (NOT COLD) water on belly area, back of head and the underside of neck. Do not pour water into dog’s mouth.
- DO NOT PUT DOG IN A POOL OR TUB OF COLD WATER
- Take dog’s temperature. If it is at 104 F (40 C) or lower, STOP THE COOLING PROCESS (to avoid risk of blood clotting or temperature dropping too low)
- Take dog to vet ASAP even if the dog seems to be getting better
PREVENTING HEAT EXHAUSTION & HEATSTROKE:
- Provide LOTS of fresh, clean water at all times.
- On warm days, dogs outside should have access to shade.
- There is mixed opinion on the effects of “summer haircuts” (not suitable for all dogs). It has been suggested that in order to protect the dog’s skin from the sun, the dog’s fur should be trimmed no shorter than an inch (a few centimetres).
- Exercise dogs during the coolest parts of the day. Stay in the shade when possible.
- 32 C or hotter, dog should be kept indoors.
- Limit exercise or play sessions; keep them short; take lots of breaks to cool down.
- The heat from the concrete or asphalt can overheat your dog (and burn paws).
- Never put dog in a hot vehicle (parked or being driven). It’s better to leave the dog at home where it’s cool and there is fresh water to drink.
- Cooling Vests for dogs may be an option. The Whole Dog Journal shares some feedback on these vests (halfway through the article).