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Recognizing Dog Heat Illness Symptoms and What to Do About Them

Posted by Dr. Roth on March 15, 2022

Wellness Care
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As the heat and humidity rise, dogs can suffer just as much as the humans who love them. Since dogs can’t say that they are overheating, it is up to the people who care for them to keep an eye out for dog heat illness symptoms. It's one of the most common dog health questions for a reason.

Proper dog care means knowing the signs of heat illnesses, keeping a close watch on them, and knowing what to do if the dog becomes overheated. 

Why Do Dogs Overheat? 

Almost any animal can overheat, and most have developed ways to keep cool . Some animals, like humans, sweat. Others, like hippos and pigs, take to the water or mud to protect themselves from extreme heat. 

Dogs keep themselves cool by panting. The rapid exchange of air through their mouth and nose both expels warm air and cools the mucous membranes in the mouth, nose and throat through evaporation. But when the temperature and or humidity is very high, panting isn't as effective as it usually is. When that happens, the core temperature of the dog can rise, leading to dog heat illness. 

Dog Heat Illness Symptoms

Dog heat illness, or heat exhaustion, can be dangerous. If the dog’s temperature rises above normal and is not brought down quickly, serious injury and death can occur. Here are the symptoms to look out for

  • Excessive panting or raspy breathing

  • Change in color of the gums and mouth – Early on, the gums and mouth may turn bright red, later, as dehydration sets in, they will turn blueish gray 

  • Changes in drooling– At first there may be excessive drooling. As the problem progresses, the drool may become thick and sticky or cease altogether 

  • Confusion – Watch for obedient dogs that suddenly seem to not hear commands or appear clumsy. They may even walk in circles or fall down 

  • Vomiting and diarrhea – If these occur, immediate medical attention is required 

Seizures – Seizures are a sign that the dog is well into heat exhaustion and immediate action is required to prevent death 

What To Do 

The best way to keep a dog healthy is to follow the best dog health advice -- don't let them get heat illness in the first place. Once they have it, the accepted dog medical advice is that the only way to treat a dog’s heat illness is to cool them down. In the early stages, it may be enough to provide plenty of cool water and get them out of the heat if possible. 

As the heat illness progresses, more drastic measures are needed. Placing cool cloths, or similar dog health care products, under their armpits, belly and groin can help to cool them faster. Cool water on their ear flaps and pads of the feet helps too. If there is a body of water nearby, they may benefit from wading in it. 

T‌ry to rehydrate the dog with fluids that are approved for dog nutrition, like Petralyte or watered-down and unflavored Pedialyte. Cooling agents should be a part of a dog's first aid kit

If the heat exhaustion has progressed to the point of seizures, vomiting or collapsing, get the dog to a vet immediately. If pet parents are having trouble identifying the signs of heat illness, using Fuzzy’s Vet Chat can instantly connect them with a licensed vet for 24/7 expert care.

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