Unlike humans, dogs are unable to cool themselves through sweating. Instead, dogs rely on less efficient methods such as panting and are therefore at an increased risk of heat exhaustion, which can escalate into heat stroke. A dog’s normal body temperature is typically 100°F- 102.5°F. Heat exhaustion is typically classified as a body temperature over 103°F, with heat stroke being over 106°F.
Certain dogs are more at-risk of developing heat exhaustion than others. Breeds with thick coats, young puppies and elderly dogs, as well as brachycephalic breeds are most prone. Due to their flat face and stubby nose, brachycephalic breeds such as boxers and pugs are unable to pant as efficiently as breeds with longer snouts.
On hot days, or those with a high humidity, take precautions to avoid heat exhaustion. These include limiting your dog’s exercise, offering plenty of water, and keeping them inside with air conditioning. Parked vehicles (even those with the windows down) warm up extremely quickly, even on mild days, making this a dangerous situation for your dog.
Signs of heat exhaustion include excessive panting, discolored tongue and gums, and disorientation. If your dog is expressing these symptoms, call your veterinarian and quickly move them inside with air conditioning or under a fan. Checking your dog’s temperature can help determine the severity of heat exhaustion, and will provide additional insight to your veterinarian. You can use cool (not cold!) water on their armpits and the pads of their paws. Cool or room temperature water can be offered, but avoid using cold water or ice cubes.
For more information on heat exhaustion, visit the AKC Canine Health Foundation website, HERE.