Too Hot to Handle – Pet Heat Exhaustion

What is heat exhaustion?

Over exposure during hot summer days can de-hydrate pets and cause hyperthermia when your pet’s temperature rises above a healthy range making them unable to regulate their own body heat.

The result of prolonged hyperthermia can result in heat exhaustion, lost consciousness and organ failure. Dogs are more sensitive to heat then we are because they rapidly pant rather than sweat.

However, we can safeguard our pets by never doing the following:

  1.  Never even for a moment, leave you pet in a parked car even with your windows a bit ajar. This can be fatal and cause your furry child to have heatstroke and die like hundreds of pets every year.  In an 80 degree day the temperature can reach 100 degrees in 10 minutes for example.
  2. Do not let your dog stay outside too long. When they do go out, make sure they have plenty of water and shady areas to relax in.  In general, it is best to bring them inside after they do their business on very hot days.
  3. Try not to walk your pet during the warmest time of day and make the walks as short as possible, preferably in shaded areas.  Be careful of hot payment, wood, etc. as your pet’s paw pad can easily burn.  If the surface is too hot to touch after 5 minutes…do not risk walking on it with your pet.
  4. Keep your house cool. If you must turn the AC off or do not have AC, set up multiple fans out of reach directed toward were you pet lounges most often.  The house should be no warmer than 75 degrees, if possible.
  5. Always keep water bowls filled.  Sweat glands are only on dogs paws, so they regulate their temperature by resting, panting and drinking water. 
  6. Dogs with flat faces are more susceptible to heat are as they can not pant as efficiently as most other dogs.  If there is a lot of panting or difficulty breathing it could be a sign of heat exhaustion. 
  7. Signs of dehydration include tiredness, excessive panting, sunken eyes and dry nose. Bright red, purple/blueish gums could also be a sign if dehydration. 
  8. Lots of drooling that is thicker or stickier than usual can be a warning of heat exhaustion, also look out for muscle tremors.
  9. Fever-if your pet’s nose is dry and hot instead of wet and cool could mean they have a slight fever. 
  10. Lethargy or weakness as well as trouble standing, dizziness, vomiting and diarrhea could also be due to heat exhaustion.  Also lack of urination can me a dangerous warning of heat exhaustion and dehydration.
  11. When in doubt, call your vet.

If this sounds like your situation-


  1. Apply cool, not cold water around their body, and around their eyes and paws.  For puppies and small dogs use lukewarm water.  Bring the pet to a cool area of the house.
  2. Put them in front of a fan if you can to dry off.  Their temperature should lower to 103 degrees F (here is a pet thermometer we keep in the house) before you stop applying water. Be sure your thermometer is not glass, of course as they could bite this.
  3. Give them lukewarm or room temperature water NOT COLD. 
  4. Call your vet as soon as you are able even if the dog seems ok.  They may need to be checked for shock, dehydration, kidney failure and other complications.
  5. If you dog seems violently ill, rush to an emergency clinic.

Thanks to Central Veterinary Clinic for the image

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