Can Dogs Get Heat Exhaustion?

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It is hot outside. You and your family are loving your time playing out in the sunshine. Maybe you’re playing sports. Maybe you’re swimming in a backyard pool. Maybe you are all doing some yard work in the warm summer sun.

We are usually careful to watch our children, reminding them to hydrate while they are in the sun. If they are playing sports, we may even offer an electrolyte drink to help fill their bodies with nutrients necessary for staying hydrated and healthy while in the heat and sun.

If your dog wants to be outside with you in the sun and heat, make sure they are getting enough shade and liquids to keep them cool as well.

Can Dogs Get Heat Exhaustion?

YES!

Heat exhaustion is a precursor to heat stroke. Dogs can become overheated easily, but they won’t always be able to tell you what is happening to them. Your dog may continue going outside in the heat without telling you how they are feeling, so you may not realize how overheated they are until they are in trouble. Be sure to keep an eye on your dog and know the signs of trouble before your dog feels it.

Does My Dog Have Heat Exhaustion?

Your dog’s body heat can rise quickly in the sun and heat, and even more so with activity outside. Pay close attention to your dog when they are playing outside or with you in the summer heat. Your dog may slow down while playing to let you know they are uncomfortable. Look for other signs of trouble if your dog is out in the heat.

 

  • Excessive panting

  • Seeking shade

  • Seeking water and drinking excessively

  • Vomiting water or food

  • Wide eyes

  • Bright red gums

  • Nosebleeds

Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can be deadly quickly. Learn more about heat stroke here  so you can better prepare your dog for hot summer days.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Heat Exhaustion?

If you notice signs of heat exhaustion, get your dog indoors or into the shade and cooled as quickly as you can. Apply cool, not ice cold, water to your dog’s stomach and inner thighs to cool your dog’s body. When he appears to be feeling better, try to get your dog to walk slowly to circulate the cooler blood throughout his body. Your dog should be drinking water while in the heat. If he does not want water, try to offer him beef or chicken broth for the liquid with the added taste he’ll like. Do not offer your dog electrolytes meant for people and try not to let your dog drink water too quickly.

If your dog does not respond and perk up quickly, get him to your veterinarian right away. The signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion are very similar. Heat stroke can be lethal very quickly.

If your dog is outside for lengthy periods of time, offer treats frozen in smaller blocks of ice to snack on while in the heat. Never leave your dog in an unattended vehicle.

How is Heat Exhaustion Similar in Dogs and Humans?

Heat exhaustion for dogs is very much like heat exhaustion for humans and other animals. Your dog will feel similar to how we feel if overheated.

  • Sleepy

  • Weak

  • Dizziness

  • Increased or irregular heartbeat

  • Nausea

Your dog will not be able to communicate these sensations to you as a human would.

How is Heat Exhaustion Different in Dogs and Humans?

The biggest difference between dogs and humans is the ability to communicate. Your dog will not be able to tell you how they are feeling. Many dogs will also want to please you and be with you if you are outside. Dogs also cannot control their circumstances and head inside if they want to cool down. Many dogs have a coat which helps them regulate their body temperature, even if it is a thick coat. Follow your groomer and veterinarian’s recommendations regarding shaving and thinning your dog’s fur. Even in hot summer months, some dogs still require their summer coat to keep them cool. Shaving their fur could stop their bodies from properly regulating their internal temperature.

Case Study

A Saint Bernard in the hot desert sun wants to be the best dog and protector of his family, so he stays outside in the summer heat with the family every time they are in their backyard. The family lets him inside to cool down, but he barks and wants to be outside again.

Being the people pleasing dog he is, he wants to be close to his people. His family offers him shade where he can watch the children play and keep them safe from harm as all great Saints do. A cooling water mister is nearby, he has fresh cool water to drink, and ice treats for him to lick and uncover bite size healthy snacks.

Still, the dog overheats, throws up his food, pants excessively, and becomes overly hot. The dog’s only chance of fighting what could become dangerous heat stroke is to cool down and stay out of the heat. Once the dog is inside with cool cloths on his tummy and ears, he begins to drink cool water slowly and nap in the air-conditioned home. It’s tough being a mountain dog in the desert with children who want to be outside all summer. But with love and understanding and some great care, this Saint Bernard will not only survive the desert but also continue to be the best dog ever.