Heat exhaustion in dogs
Warmer weather can be a welcome break from cooler winter weather, but with the heat comes the danger of overheating for our furry family members. Heat exhaustion can lead to serious health implications, including internal organ failure and cardiac arrest. Unlike people, dogs only sweat from their paw pads, which doesn’t drastically help to cool the body down. Instead, dogs pant or open mouth breathe rapidly to dissipate heat. In very warm or humid temperatures, panting isn’t enough for them to cool down.
Every dog owner should be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion. A rectal temperature between 103-106 is indicative that a dog’s internal temperature is too high and is at risk for organ damage. The earlier signs are noticed, the better chance your pet has of recovering. The first sign of heat exhaustion may be that your dogs is less responsive than he usually is to commands. Another early sign is excessive panting. As signs progress, one may see vomiting/excessive drooling, diarrhea, or in severe cases, seizures (convulsions).
There are some factors that put certain dogs at increased risk for heat exhaustion. Dogs with flat faces, like Pugs, Boston Terriers, and Bulldogs are not as efficient as cooling through panting. Dogs with thick or long coats are also at increased risk for heat exhaustion. Dogs with high energy levels that are extremely active are also at increased risk. If you are the pet parents to a dog that falls into any of these categories, it is important to take rest breaks (ideally in the shade) and offer plenty of water (not ice) to make sure they are staying well hydrated.
If you suspect your dog is overheating, first – do not panic. Immediately bring your dog indoors/to the shade/ near a fan where it is cooler. Running cool water over your dogs body and paw pads can also help to dramatically reduce his body temperature. Don’t use ice water, as this can make it harder for the body to cool down as efficiently. If your dog is still conscious, offer cool (not ice) water. If your dog’s body temperature is above 103 degrees, you should seek veterinary care immediately.
Dr. Melissa Guard, DVM