Dogs and Heat Exhaustion

Leaving your dog in the car on a hot day can quickly lead to heat exhaustion.

Although certain breeds of dogs are more susceptible to heat exhaustion than others, given the right circumstances, it can occur and every dog is a potential victim. Specific breeds that are more susceptible include those that are short nosed such as the Bulldog and the Chow Chow. Additionally, dogs with respiratory problems or cardiovascular conditions are at higher risk.

Dogs are more susceptible to heat exhaustion than humans due to the manner in which they control body temperature. If your dog is experiencing heat exhaustion, he will exhibit obvious signs of distress. Signs of heat exhaustion in your dog include the following symptoms:

  • The dog’s panting is heavier than normal.
  • The dog might appear unable to breathe deeply enough to get enough oxygen to sustain him. If this happens, he might sound as though he is beginning to strangle.
  • Less than normal salivation is evident.
  • The dog’s tongue might become swollen or bluish in coloring.
  • The dog’s skin feels warm to the touch.
  • The dog is beginning to show signs of staggering in his walk.
  • Your dog seems restless and weak.
  • He might develop a fever and his temperature might rise to more than 104 degrees.
  • Your dog might begin to vomit or to experience diarrhea.
  • Your dog exhibits evidence of delirium.

If the dog is showing signs of heat exhaustion, a trip to the veterinarian is necessary. However, resuscitation efforts should be taken before you try to transport the dog or he might not survive the trip. Bathe the dog’s entire body with cool water. If possible, immerse him in a shallow tub that has been filled with cool water. Your dog should exhibit signs of easier breathing shortly after this process.

Once your dog is showing signs that he is responding to your treatment, it is time to transport him. Call to make sure that your dog’s veterinarian is expecting you. Once the veterinarian has assessed your dog’s condition, he will begin treatment. Treatment can include any number of options including an oxygen flow or injections to reduce the throat’s inflammation.

Human error is often at the bottom of an episode of heat exhaustion in dogs. Failing to provide proper ventilation in a closed vehicle is one of the primary causes. People often take their pets with them while running a few errands and leave them in the car while running in and out. Unfortunately, sometimes an unexpected chance encounter with an old acquaintance turns into a long conversation that leaves the poor dog at risk of heat exhaustion.

Additionally, it is easy to misjudge how hot it will get in the car when the morning starts with cooler temperatures that rapidly heat up. This is more of a problem during the changeover of seasons. Unfortunately, the inside of a car only takes minutes to reach unbearable temperatures when the outside temperature is hot.

Use common sense when traveling with your dog. Allow him to get plenty of fresh air and lots of cool water, especially on the warmer days. Carry your veterinarian’s phone number in your wallet since many of the cases of heat exhaustion in pets occur away from home.

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