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9 Signs of Heat Exhaustion (And 8 Safe Ways to Cool a Dog Down)

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This time of year, it’s not just humans that want to get out and enjoy the warmer weather. Our dogs have the same yearning to romp in the sun, so hot-weather safety should be at the forefront of your activities together. 

Ice Bowl

Heat exhaustion is more common in dogs than expected with hundreds of cases of heat-related illnesses happening every year, some of them being fatal. A recent report listed 395 instances of heatstroke and exhaustion, 14% of those cases resulting in death.

To comprehend the seriousness of keeping your dog cool on hot days, HonestPaws compiled the 9 signs of heat exhaustion to watch for and 8 safe ways to quickly cool your dog to safe levels.

9 Signs of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

Because overheating can be life-threatening if not treated immediately, noticing the early signs of heat exhaustion will reduce the chances of canine heatstroke and death.

  1. Bright Red Gums: Bright red gums are signs of increased blood flow to the mouth, the primary cooling center for dogs. If your fur baby’s gums are very red or bright pink during the hot summer day, it’s an easy sign to spot that he may be overheated.
  2. Collapse: If your dog has lost balance or consciousness and has collapsed, head to your vet immediately. The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation suggests wetting your dog with a cool cloth and calling your vet ahead of time so they can prepare for your arrival. 
  3. Diarrhea: Diarrhea is another tell-tale sign of heat exhaustion in dogs. An upset stomach sometimes accompanies collapse, and it is characterized by abnormally soft stool or stool that contains small amounts of blood.
  4. Excessive Panting: Since dogs lose excess body heat and regulate their temperature by panting, a dog suffering from heat exhaustion will show rapid breathing and excessive panting.
  5. Lethargy: If you notice your dog’s looking lethargic and tired on a hot summer afternoon, then you have every reason to be worried. An overheated dog will nap more than normal and look like it’s carrying a thousand pounds of weight when standing up or walking.
  6. Rapid Heart Rate: When you notice a rapid rise in your dog’s heart rate, it’s not a sign that Fido’s in love. In fact, if you notice excessive panting or dizziness in your dog, it may be an indication of an increased heart rate from heat exhaustion. An increased heart rate is the heart’s effort to regulate internal temps, so act quickly if you notice any worrisome changes.
  7. Slow Response Time: Another commonly overlooked sign of heat exhaustion in dogs is a slow response time. If your dog is typically alert, if he slowly stops responding to his name or simple verbal commands during the hot summer afternoon, then there’s a likelihood that the heat could be affecting his attentiveness.
  8. Temperature Over 104 Degrees: If your dog’s body temperature reaches a staggering 104 or more, then you have every reason to be alarmed. It’s time to take your furry friend to the vet ASAP. 
  9. Increased Thirst: Most animals will be thirstier and drink more water than usual when the blistering heat of the summer months strikes. That’s why your dog must always have access to fresh, clean, cool water for drinking.

If your dog is showing any of these signs of exhaustion, take immediate action to cool them down.

8 Ways to Cool Down a Dog Safely

  1. Create a Cool Space: One simple way to cool down your overheating dog is by creating a safe space for him to relax and cool off from the blistering heat. If you’re indoors, get a fan or an air conditioner to lower environmental temperatures. If you’re outside, find a nice, safe shade for Fido to cool off and relax. 
  2. Hydrate: Just like for us, cold drinking water has an immediate cooling effect and is a fast and easy way to avoid heat exhaustion.  Keep clean, cooled water on hand whenever you and your pooch are out in the heat.  
  3. Use a Wet Towel: Does putting a wet towel on a dog really cool them down? Yes, if done properly with a nice cool drenched towel. However, you have to be careful not to spray water that’s too cold directly on your dog. You don’t want to shock or surprise them. 
  4. Install Misters: Instead of using a garden hose, misters are specially designed devices attached to the water supply and spray a very fine mist of cool water. It’s friendlier to use a mister on your dog than shooting large amounts of water on him with a garden hose.  
  5. Make a Dog Pool: People love taking a dip in the pool every now and then, so why not our canine buddies? Making a dog pool is another effective way to cool down your dog, but it must be done with caution. If your dog is almost at the brink of heatstroke, it’s more effective to slowly lower his temperature than throwing him in a pool. 
  6. Ice Their Water Bowl: There’s nothing a little ice-cold drink can’t fix. Adding a few ice cubes to Fido’s water bowl will ensure he has a constant supply of cool drinking water when the summer heat comes. 
  7. Make Pup-sicles: Who would say no to a tasty frozen treat on a hot summer day? Serve your dog some frozen, tasty pup-sicles and watch how fast his tail wags. The best part of all, it is super simple to make right in the comfort of your home. 
  8. Purchase a Cooling Mat: Dog cooling mats are specially designed mats that help to keep your dog cool during hot weather conditions. These mats come with a unique cooling gel that absorbs heat and remains cool and comfortable for your dogs to lie on. You also won’t need to spend extra money on electricity to keep your dog cool and happy. Win-win!

Lifesaving Infographic courtesy of HonestPaws:

How To Keep Your Dog Cool In The Heat Infographic

Unsafe Ways to Cool Down Your Dog

While the above techniques are some simple and safe ways to cool down your dog this summer, be aware of unsafe ways as well. Below are some of these techniques and why you should steer clear of them.

Alone in a Car with AC: While air conditioning is a good idea for cooling down a hot dog, leaving your dog alone in a car even with the air-conditioning on is still largely inappropriate, and the temperature changes are too unpredictable. If you see an animal alone in a parked car, you can notify local authorities or animal control if the owner doesn’t return within a few minutes. 

Ice Bath: Ice baths may be good for sports athletes but not advisable for use on your dogs. This is because they cause drastic temperature changes, which is unhealthy for a dog suffering from heat exhaustion.

Ice Pack: Ice packs are another way people cool down their hot dogs, but this method is unsafe and unhealthy. Dogs may accidentally ingest the substance in ice packs, which can cause stomach problems.

Shave Bald: Shaving off all the hair on your dog may seem like a shortcut method to cooling down your dog, but it exposes your dog to a whole different level of environmental threats. While it’s okay to shave spots for medical reasons like surgery or hot spots, the coat of your dog is there for a wide variety of reasons and should not be shaved off completely.

Swim in Dirty Water: Dirty water might do the trick and keep your pet cool, but the water is home to millions of disease-causing organisms that are looking for a suitable host to infect. Protect your pooch from the dangers of dirty water and keep them at home in the pool or a known safe natural water source.

Remember that whenever the weather is too hot and uncomfortable for you, it certainly is hot and uncomfortable for your furry friends.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Of Rob



    Another risk is your dog’s groomer leaving him or her restrained and alone with a HOT blow dryer blowing on them on a hot summer day
    This happened to my 12 year old Collie Barney who collapsed after I picked him up from the dog groomer.
    Luckily he recovered after laying in front of a fan for 12 hours from severe lethargy and vomiting from being overheated.

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