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A Summer Guide to Heat Stress and Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

on July 13, 2022

A Summer Guide to Heat Stress and Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

Summer is beloved amongst humans for its fun outdoor activities, vacations, long days, and relaxation by the water. And let's not forget our faithful canines! They love summer for more days at the dog park, swimming, long walks, and playing outside. 

But nothing is scarier than when your dog gets sick while playing outside. Sometimes fun in the sun becomes unsafe for humans and dogs! But we have you covered in this quick article on our summer guide to heat stress and heat exhaustion in dogs! 


So how hot is too hot for dogs? 

The answer: It depends on your dog! The decision on how long your dog stays outside on a hot day comes down to your dog, its breed, size, age, and health. 

But here are some things to consider. 

According to The College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University,  "The normal range of temperatures at which dogs and other species can maintain their body temperatures without expending energy to increase heat production or heat loss is called the thermoneutral zone (TNZ), and ranges from...68 degrees F to 86 degrees F for dogs. Outside of the TNZ exist the upper and lower critical temperature zones."


Based on this, you can see that the ideal temperatures for being outside with your dog are 68 degrees F to 86 degrees F. 

The average body temperature for a dog is from 99.5 to 102.5 degrees F. Dogs hit heat exhaustion when their body temperature hits 103 degrees F. And at 105 degrees F, they are in heatstroke, resulting in thermal injury to body tissue. Since a dog's internal temperature is hotter than humans, ambient temperature also feels hotter to them than it does to us. 

Puppies and small dog breeds have more difficulty regulating their body temperature. Medium to large dog breeds who are hearty and active will do better outside in the heat for extended periods. But their time probably needs to be limited and monitored if they are senior dogs or dealing with health conditions. And brachycephalic (aka short-nosed) dogs are naturally more susceptible to heat exhaustion.

A great rule of thumb is that once temperatures (especially with high humidity) are over 75 degrees F, you should take extra caution when taking your dog outside for over 20 minutes. This is because some dogs can develop heat stroke in 30 minutes, with death occurring within the hour. 

If you're hot, you can bet your dog is too. And if temperatures (look at the 'feel like temperature') are over 100 degrees F, limiting your dog's time out to bathroom breaks is best! Because even if your dog is sitting outside, temperatures over 100 degrees F can quickly cause problems for your dog. 


Signs Your Dog Has Heat Stress

Heat stress is when your dog gets too hot for a short period, but he/she can cool off efficiently and show no severe consequences other than the sleepiness and mild dehydration.

Signs your dog has heat stress: 

  • Excessive panting
  • Tongue excessively protruding out with a flattened end
  • Cheeks pulled back, revealing the full arcade of their teeth, including the molars
  • Brick red gums
  • Changes in their focus and readiness

After taking your dog for a walk on hot days, you might see that your dog has some heat stress. But they are now inside and cooling off. Let them. 

What you don't want is allowing heat stress to turn into heat exhaustion or, worse, heat stroke.

 A Summer Guide to Heat Stress and Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

What is Heat Exhaustion in Dogs?

Heat exhaustion is when your dog's body temperature rises above a healthy range (above 102.5 degrees F), and they cannot regulate their body heat. And guess what, dogs aren't great at regulating their body temperature. Dogs sweat through their paw pads, but it's not effective at keeping them cool. And while we know that panting is how they regulate their temperature, it's also not the most effective. 

Heat exhaustion in dogs is caused by high heat or physical exertion. For example, it can happen when your dog is:

  • Going on a walk when it's hot outside
  • Being outside without access to shade and water
  • Doing too much exercise or playtime 
  • Sitting in a hot car

The longer a dog suffers the symptoms of heat exhaustion without being treated, the more fatal it can be. Heat exhaustion can start to damage their organs. 

Signs of your dog has heat exhaustion: 

  • Excessive panting
  • Increased heart rate and respiratory rate
  • Feeling hot to the touch
  • Lethargic
  • Drooling
  • Brick red gums
  • Being quiet or unresponsive
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fainting
  • Seizures 

So if you notice signs of heat exhaustion in your dog, take him immediately to the vet. While you might think you can handle this at home, heat exhaustion is a medical emergency. And your vet can give your dog an IV catheter with fluids for hydration and temperature control and provide oxygen if necessary. 


What is Heat Stroke in Dogs? 

Heat stroke in dogs is almost the same as heat exhaustion, almost. The big difference between the two is that heat stroke in a dog will show severe neurological changes and can have organ damage. 

A dog suffering from heat stroke could have all the signs of a dog with heat exhaustion, but they will also experience more extreme symptoms like unresponsiveness or being comatose. 


What Can You Do if Your Dog is Showing Signs of Heat Stress 

If you notice your dog showing signs of heat stress, it's essential to let them cool down. While cooling down, keep an eye out for signs of heat exhaustion. Again, if you see signs of heat exhaustion, take them to the vet immediately. 
  • If you are outside and can go inside where it's cooler, do so. Give them some water, and let them rest. 
  • If you can't go inside, find a shady spot, give them some water, and cool down their coats by pouring water on them. Hang out in the shade until they have cooled down some and aren't panting as much. 

NOTE: Use water that is not super cold- for drinking or on their coat. Ice-cold water to cool a dog down will do more harm than good. Do not stick them in an ice bath either. TOO RAPID cooling can shock the heart and cause vasoconstriction, which traps heat in the body.

 A Summer Guide to Heat Stress and Heat Exhaustion in Dogs_Blog_Mission Driven Goods

How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion in Your Dog 

One of the best ways to prevent heat exhaustion in your dog is to watch their level of fatigue and dehydration. 

Adult dogs sleep 12 to 14 hours a day. And in the summer, they may spend a little more time sleeping, maybe even exceeding the usual amount. While this is normal because summer heat can cause your dog to become tired, irritable, and less willing to exercise, you might want to visit the vet if they sleep more than 18 hours a day. 

Dogs need to stay hydrated, just like humans. But not all dogs need the same amount of water. The more active or hotter they are, the more water they need. In hot weather, dogs need 3 to 4 times the normal water. A rule of thumb is 1 ounce of water for each pound they weigh. 

And a great habit of practicing in the summer is to bring a doggy water bottle with you everywhere you go. Dog water bottles are great for hydrating your dog anytime, anywhere. 

Signs your dog is dehydrated: 

  • Loss of skin elasticity.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Vomiting with or without diarrhea.
  • Reduced energy levels and lethargy.
  • Panting.
  • Sunken, dry-looking eyes.
  • Dry nose.
  • Dry, sticky gums.
  • Excessive drooling. Keep an eye out for lots of drool or drool thicker and stickier than usual. 

The best way to prevent your dog from overheating is by keeping him out of situations that will make him hot. Check our "10 Ways to Keep Your Dog Hydrated this Summer" blog for more practical tips. 

And use this awesome infographic below as a guide to know how hot is too hot for my dog!


How Hot is Too Hot for Your Dog? Guide


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