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Preventing Heat Exhaustion in Pets

With summer temperatures in Flagstaff soaring into the 90s, it is crucial to make sure that your pet is cool and comfortable. Your pet’s temperature can rise very quickly in hot weather and heat exhaustion becomes a danger. Once the process of heat exhaustion begins, it progresses rapidly toward heat stroke, which can result in coma and death, unless measures are taken immediately to reverse the rise in body temperature. The normal body temperature of your pet is between 100ºF and 102.5ºF. Once the temperature rises above 105ºF, your pet is at risk for heat exhaustion. Though heat exhaustion can affect any animal, pug-nosed breeds, obese pets and older pets are more susceptible.

Early Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion Include:

Heavy Panting

Bright Red Gums


Hyper Salivation

If at this time the pet is not immediately removed from the heat and given treatment, it can develop heatstroke and symptoms will become more severe. As the animal’s temperature rises above 105ºF, the pet’s circulation decreases and the mucous membranes become pale. At this point, there may be vomiting or watery diarrhea. The brain will then swell, causing tremors and involuntary paddling movements. The pet will go into a coma, organs will fail, and eventually the animal will die of respiratory arrest.

How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion

Never leave your pet in a closed vehicle. Though it may not feel scorching hot outside, the temperatures in a closed vehicle can reach up to 150ºF very rapidly. Opening the windows a crack and parking in the shade can help, but only for less than five minutes. If you need to go inside somewhere that pets are not allowed for more than a few minutes, it is best to leave your pet at home.
    If possible, leave your pet in the house when you are not home. Avoid leaving your pet in a garage or outdoor kennel where shade and water are not available. Heat exhaustion can even occur quickly outside when adequate shade and plenty of water are not available.

    If leaving your dog outside, DO NOT chain it up. Your pet can not only run the risk of choking itself, but if it gets tangled, it can become unable to get to shade or water.
    Try to walk your dog in the early morning or late evening when the temperature is cooler and the pavement is not warm.

No matter if outside, inside or on vacation, always have fresh, cool water available for your pet.

Heat Exhaustion Treatment

Heat exhaustion is a very serious condition that requires emergency treatment. Get your pet to the veterinarian immediately. The veterinarian can provide intravenous fluids and medication to prevent swelling in the brain.
    Even when on the way to the veterinarian, initial cooling is crucial when it comes to heat exhaustion. You can place a cool, wet towel over the animal or pour a small amount of water in their armpits, belly, chest or paws. Never use very cold or ice cold water. This drastic change in temperature can cause the animal to go into shock. Take your pet’s temperature rectally every 10 minutes; remove the cooling devices if its temperature drops below 103ºF. FBN

By Dr. Chelsey Rae Calhoun

Dr. Chelsey Rae Calhoun was born in Cottonwood, Arizona and earned her veterinary degree at Colorado State University. She enjoys working with small animals, exotic animals and is a certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. She is happily married with two beautiful twin baby girls and a small zoo of animals at home.


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