Heatstroke can result in lose of consciousness, fever, organ failure and even death!


I’m not sure where you may be reading this from, but here in Nova Scotia, Canada, we have had a wet spring. Finally, things are starting to heat up! The following months should be filled with lazy summer afternoons, beach days, and sunny dogs walks. You may be tempted to take your pooch out with you for a run in the sun or to hang on the beach but do you know that your dog is actually more heat sensitive than you putting them at risk of heat exhaustion?

The normal human body temperature is about 37 degrees Celsius ( 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit ).  Our furry friends run warmer, ranging from about 38.3 to 39.2 degrees Celsius (101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit). We sweat to cool off while dogs use their respiratory system to cool off, aka panting. Dogs tend to be more heat sensitive than their pet parents.

Sometimes, if a dog gets too hot, it can overwhelm their panting ability. When this happens, they can’t cool down and are at risk for heat exhaustion and even worse, heat stroke.

According to a retrospective study in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine….

the survival rate of dogs with heatstroke is ONLY 50%!

What are the signs of heat exhaustion in dogs?

The best treatment is prevention, avoid activity in high temperatures! As a dog rehabilitation therapist, I am always promoting physical activity for our furry friends BUT not in hot temperatures! We will discuss more about prevention in the next blog. Right now I want to share very important information so you know what to look for if you are worried your dog may be showing signs of heat exhaustion.

( Download this infographic from Vets Now. )

Signs/symptoms of heat exhaustion & heat stroke

  • Excessive/rapid panting/difficulty breathing. As dogs heat up, panting with a slightly open mouth with turn into a fully openmouthed pant plus a swollen tongue that hangs out to the side. This means shade and rest immediately!
  • Dehydration – signs may include sunken eyes, dry nose, visible tiredness…. in people, something we look at is the skin. If you pinch an area of skin, it should pop back into place as soon as you release it. Dogs too!
  • Excessive drooling – if your dog is drooling A LOT, it may be a sign they are having a hard time cooling down.
  • Tired/weak- you may find in the heat, your dog wants to lay down more often which is a clear sign they need to take a break and cool off. If you dog is having trouble standing up or collapses in the heat, take them to your emergency vet immediately.
  • Muscle tremors – uncontrolled shaking after being in warmer temperatures can very likely be a sign of heat exhaustion.
  • Fast/Irregular pulse – place your hand on the front of their chest, near their elbow. If its racing or really irregular, its a medical emergency – go to the vet ASAP!
  • Vomiting/diarrhea. – If your dog has been in the heat and is experiencing lack of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea, this is a big warning of heat exhaustion and again a medical emergency – go to the vet ASAP!
  • Neurologic signs – Any unusual changes in behaviour, difficulty walking, stumbling, etc is again a very strong warning of heat exhaustion and possibly heat stroke and requires urgent veterinary attention. Go!

Get out of the heat!

As I said before, prevention is key. Avoid activity in hot and humid temperatures…. more on that to come. If you do suspect your dog is too hot or something is up and you have had them out in warmer weather consider the following as a guide of things you can do while you are calling your vet or taking them to the emergency vet.

Contact your vet or go to your local emergency vet immediately!

  • Get out of the heat
  • Lower body temperature GRADUALLY! Don’t just dunk your dog in cold water as cooling too quickly can be DANGEROUS
  • Apply cool compresses on the paws and around the ears.
  • Put a fan on
  • Offer small amounts of lukewarm water as body temperature comes down

Summer should be fun for everyone! Keep your dog healthy and happy in the hot weather 🙂