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Know the Signs of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

June 2, 2011

Heat exhaustion can be dangerous, even fatal, for dogs. It can also be devastating for uninformed or unsuspecting pet owners. Fortunately, there are some simple things that you can do to protect your dog from the dangers of heat exhaustion.

Recognize the Signs of Heat Exhaustion in Your Dog

Dogs suffering from heat stroke will normally exhibit some or all of the following symptoms:

• Restlessness
• Panting
• Increased respiratory rate
• Increased heart rate
• Excess salivation
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea

As the symptoms progress and the dog’s body temperature increases, signs become even more serious.

• Weakness
• Staggering
• Gasping
• Gum color may become brick red, then purple or blue (cyanosis)
• Seizures
• Coma
• Death

Treatment of Heat Exhaustion

If you believe your dog is suffering from heat exhaustion, seek veterinary care immediately even if your dog’s condition does not seem serious. Cool water can be used to begin to decrease his body temperature during the trip to the veterinarian. Towels can be soaked in cool water and used to cover your dog. You can also place the towels between his legs and across his neck. Do not use cold water or ice. This may make the situation worse.

Preventing Heat Exhaustion

In many cases, heat exhaustion is preventable.

• Never leave your dog untended in your car, even if the temperature is mild. In a locked car, the temperature can climb rapidly to a dangerous level. A cracked window will not prevent your dog from overheating and suffering heat stroke. Never assume your pet will be okay in the car for “just a minute” while you run into the store or attend another errand. An unexpected delay could endanger your dog’s life!
• Animals should have access to shade and fresh water while outdoors. If the temperature is very warm, outdoor access should be limited to short periods of time and the dog should be housed indoors.
• If your dog is working in warm weather, be prepared to offer him water at regular intervals and understand that he may drink more water than usual under these circumstances.
• Use caution with dogs that are obese, have respiratory difficulties, are geriatric or are otherwise unhealthy. These dogs may be more prone to heat exhaustion than other dogs.
• In addition, short-nosed (brachycephalic) breeds of dogs are at higher risk of heat exhaustion than other breeds.

By being aware of the circumstances in which heat exhaustion can occur, many if not most cases can be prevented. For more tips on how to keep your dog cool in the Texas heat, go here.

Lorie Huston is a veterinarian with over 20 years experience with dogs and cats. She is also a talented free-lance author and blogger. You can find Lorie at her blog, Pet Health Care Gazette, and as part of the Animal Café team. She also writes regularly at and has been featured in numerous publications both online and off, including Pet Sitter’s World, FIDOFriendly, BlogPaws and Blissfully Domestic.

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About Austin Dog Zone

Austin Dog Zone formed in 2011. We offer dog training for all breeds and temperaments. We are committed to staying up-to-date on the most current scientific research available for dogs regarding both behavior and wellness. Our methods are effective, dog-friendly and family friendly.

2 Comments to “Know the Signs of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs”

  1. […] Understanding and Preventing Heat Stroke in Dogs Know the Signs of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs […]

  2. Sheila says:

    My husband left our dog outside today for I don’t know for how long. The dog was wobbley and was grasping for air. I wet him down to cool him off. That was hours ago now and he is resting. He did drink water by himself and now is able to keep it down. We just now noticed blood coming from his nose. What do we do now. There is no vets open this time of night.

    • Austin Dog Zone says:

      Is there not an emergency vet line or number in the area? Most clinics have an emergency line available. I would try to get your dog to a vet ASAP. So sorry this is happening!

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