Top tips for preventing heat exhaustion in dogs

Jun 16, 2024 11:18:31 AM


As the weather heats up this week and next, it's important to remain aware of how the heat affects your dog. Heat exhaustion in dogs can lead to serious and potentially fatal conditions such as heat stroke and cardiac arrest. To help keep your dog safe and cool during the heatwave, here are our top tips for keeping them cool.

Unlike people, dogs do not sweat out excess body heat. Whilst dogs have a few sweat glands located in their paws, these do little to help regulate their body temperature. Instead they will pant. But sometimes in excessive periods of high heat panting is not enough to keep them from getting overheated.

You can help keep your dog from overheating with some basic precautions. These include limiting exercise or outdoor activity on excessively hot days, providing plenty of shade and water when your dog is outdoors, and never, under any circumstances, leaving your dog in a parked car—not even in the shade with the windows rolled down. Even on a normal day the inside of a parked car can reach 120 degrees in minutes, making this an extremely dangerous environment to leave your dog. Please make alternative arrangements for your dog so they do not have to stay in the car.

If your dog has energy to burn, take them swimming or let him run and play in the sprinkler or a child’s paddling pool.

Additionally, if you do take your dog for a walk it might be better to take him during the cooler hours of the day (do keep in mind hot pavements can burn his paw pads). Be sure to keep water with you and let him take a break in the shade and have a drink as often as required.

Do make sure working dogs are given plenty of breaks to rest in the shade and that they are always well-hydrated.

It is not difficult to spot signs of overheating in dogs. Excessive panting is the first symptom. A dangerously overheated dog may then collapse or experience convulsions, exhibit vomiting or diarrhoea, and may also have gums or a tongue that turn blue or bright red. But you will want to identify the problem before it gets that severe so you can intervene and prevent serious overheating. Early potential heat stroke signs include:

  • your dog seems less responsive to commands than usual
  • glazed eyes
  • excessive drooling
  • a rapid heart rate
  • dizziness or lack of coordination
  • lethargy

While all dogs are at risk for overheating in a heatwave, some breeds are more prone to it than others. This includes dogs with thick coats, very young or very old dogs, and brachycephalic breeds. Overweight dogs and those that suffer from medical conditions that cause difficulty breathing or heart problems are especially susceptible.

In this current heat all dogs are at increased risk of overheating if they are not given adequate shade or a cooler place to relax indoors. And dogs left in a hot car are in danger of heat exhaustion, heat stroke and death within minutes.

At the first sign of overheating, immediately take action to cool down your dog:

  1. Immediately move your dog to a cooler area in the shade or indoors out of the sun.
  2. If you have access to water, such as a lake or a paddling pool, let your dog take a dip to cool down. Otherwise, use cool, wet towels. Place these towels on his neck, armpits and between his hind legs. You can also gently wet his ears and paw pads with cool water.
  3. If he will have a drink, give him cool, fresh water. Do not force it, however, as it may end up in his lungs. If he cannot or will not drink, or cannot keep water down, wet his tongue with water instead.
  4. Get him to the vet. Call ahead so they can be ready to take immediate action as soon as you arrive.

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