Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

Dogs die locked in hot car – reads the headline.

It sometimes takes tragic events to remind us of the importance of looking after our animal friends.

Beautiful spring weather! Sunshine, lovely breeze, clear skies! It can still be a bit crisp though. It’s not time to put that jacket away for the season just yet. Sometimes this mix of beautiful weather and slightly cooler temperature can lead people to underestimate their dog’s risk of heat exhaustion. Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or heat prostration is a condition that affects multiple body systems and can rapidly lead to collapse and death. Only five minutes in a hot car can lead to serious illness or death for our canine patients. The key to treating heat exhaustion is prevention! Do not leave dogs in your vehicle unattended. It is important to remember the lack of air movement inside a vehicle. Although a breeze may cool us off outside, a car parked on a sunny but breezy day will still heat up quickly. Plan ahead. If your trip may involve even a chance of leaving your dog in your car unattended, even for only a few minutes, leave him home! Also, take time to talk to your veterinary team, including veterinary assistants, about the ways to recognize heat exhaustion and what to do if you discover a dog suffering from heat exhaustion.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs:

  • Excessive panting
  • Dark or bright red tongue and gums
  • Sticky/dry gums
  • Staggering
  • Stupor
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

How to Treat a dog Suffering from Heat Exhaustion:

  • Get them out of the heat and into the shade
  • Contact a veterinarian immediately
  • Place a damp cool towel over thin skinned areas
  • Do not cool them too quickly, as this can cause greater harm than good
  • Do not immerse the dog in or spray them with cold water!

Keep in mind that vehicles are not the only way to expose our dogs to heat exhaustion. Being outside in the sun without access to shade and over-exercising on a warm day are other ways we can cause harm to our dogs. Enjoy the beautiful weather when it returns again in spring!


Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act)

To report an animal in distress, please call the toll free Animal Cruelty Reporting Hotline at 1 (855) 6BC SPCA (1-855-622-7722) or contact the Vancouver SPCA