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How to prevent and treat heat exhaustion in dogs?

August 6, 2020

Summers in Hong Kong are long, humid, and hot! While we can cool down with a dip in the pool or a tall glass of iced tea, dogs might not know what to do when they are too warm. Learn to identify signs of heat exhaustion in your furry buddy and how to treat it.  

What are the symptoms?

You’re playing fetch, and your dog starts panting after a few runs. We humans have sweat glands all over our bodies that help cool down when temperatures rise. Dogs, however, mostly sweat through their paw pads, and a little through their noses. But mostly, they cool down by panting, which helps moisture evaporate quicker from their tongues and lungs. 

Because they can’t regulate body temp as efficiently as we can, it’s important to recognize when your four-legged friend is overheated. When heat exhaustion isn’t dealt with quickly, it can lead to heat stroke, which could cause organs and heart failure! 

Signs and symptoms: 

  • Excessive panting  
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat  
  • Abnormally sluggish, unresponsive to calls or food  
  • Lack of coordination  
  • Glazed, unfocused eyes  
  • Drooling 
  • Vomiting  
  • Diarrhea  
  • Muscle tremors  
  • Unconsciousness  

Some breeds overheat more easily than others, including those with thick or long fur and short-nosed dogs such as pugs, boxers, bulldogs and shih tzus. Overweight dogs also have a higher risk of heat exhaustion. 

How to treat heat exhaustion?

It’s best to avoid walking or playing outside with your dog during the hottest time of the day, especially in the summer when temperatures are often above 30C! Early morning or evening is the best time to give your canine some exercise. Make sure to have some cool water ready and preferably find somewhere with shade if it’s sunny.  

Perhaps your dog is home alone when you’re at work. Is there adequate ventilation? If you’re worried about running the air-conditioner 24/7, at least make sure you have fans to increase air flow. Keep windows partially covered if your home tends to get a lot of sunlight. Your pup should also have access to cool water.  

When you notice symptoms of heat exhaustion in your dog, the first thing you should do is to remove any collar or apparel and put them somewhere cool and out of the sun. Wet your dog with some cool water, around his or her ears and paws in particular. It’s recommended not to use cold water as the sudden temperature change can cause shock.  

Even if symptoms appear to improve, you should still bring your pup to the vet as heat exhaustion and heat stroke can cause problems that aren’t apparent. Your vet may put your dog on intravenous fluid (IV) and perform other tests to see if there are any unseen complications. 

As pet parents, we try our best to prevent our furry ones from getting sick. When they do fall ill, it’s important that we seek timely medical attention, as a mild condition left untreated could lead to serious or lasting harm on your pet’s health. Pet insurance can help make vet bills more manageable. Pawfect Care, the first pure medical pet insurance in Hong Kong, has various plans that can meet your and your pet’s needs. Go to our Pet Insurance page for more details!