Symptoms of Heat Related Illnesses

We all love to get active when the Vancouver rain subsides, and the heat takes over. We are taught to wear a hat, put on sunscreen, and drink lots of water from an early age. But things are a bit different for our canine companions. 


Check out what Release the Hounds does to keep your dog safe from the sun or 5 ways you can keep your dog cool this summer. Knowledge is power, and the best way to keep your fur baby safe is to know the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and to catch them early. 


We’ve put together the most common things to look for this summer.


Heat Stroke

Heatstroke in a dog can be very dangerous; if not treated, it can lead to organ failure and death. It occurs when your dog has been exposed to heat for too long, and their body temperature rises fast and way higher than their normal rate. If your dog’s body temperature goes higher than 39.4 degrees, then this is classed as abnormal.


Heatstroke can be caused by your being left in a car for too long on their own, unsupervised. They can also get heatstroke from being exposed to the sun for too long with no shade, exposed to a rigorous exercise in hot climates and poorly ventilated environments. 


It’s important to know some dogs are more prone to heatstroke than others; these dogs are brachycephalic breeds with short noses like Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Boxers. This is because their muzzle restricts them from panting, making it difficult even in slightly elevated temperatures. 

The Main Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  •         Rapid panting
  •         Bright red or pale gums and tongue
  •         Thick, sticky saliva
  •         Lethargy or weakness
  •         Vomiting (sometimes bloody)
  •         Dark, tarry, or bloody diarrhea
  •         Seizures or muscle tremors
  •         Shock

Based on these symptoms, if you suspect your dog has a heat stroke, you must seek medical help immediately. Before your dog sees a vet, make sure you pour cool water (not chilled) over their stomach, head, armpits and feet to help cool their body down. 


You may wish to use cool clothes to do so. When they get to see a vet, they may give your dog an IV, mild sedation or low concentration oxygen therapy to treat them. 


Dehydration in dogs is a common health problem and also life-threatening if immediate action is not taken. It happens when your dog loses more fluid than they intake, which can cause a loss of electrolytes and organ damage. 


Plus, water helps a dog’s digestion, cushions their internal organs, lubricating their joints, and regulating body temperature. If not treated immediately, it can result in serious injury, organ failure and even death. 


The main symptoms of dehydration in dogs include:

  •         Loss of elasticity in the skin (when pulled lightly, the skin will not readily come back to its original place)
  •         Dry mouth and sticky gums
  •         Lethargy
  •         Loss of appetite
  •         Thick saliva dehydration 
  •         Sunken eyes
  •         Shock

If you suspect that your dog is dehydrated, take it to a vet. They will carry out a full body examination and see how severe the dehydration is. A vet may then run further checks to see how dehydrated your dog is and rehydrate them using an intravenous drip. 

Paw Pad Burns

When we’re walking outside, we don’t think about the terrain underneath us. This is because we have a thick layer protecting the soles of our feet, causing us not to worry. On the contrary, dogs are in great danger walking on asphalt, pavements or certain terrains in hot weather. 


Before taking your dog out walking, you might want to check the temperature of the road. A good option is to take them out early in the morning or in the evening when the temperature has subsided. 


They can easily burn their paws, causing a lot of damage. If you see your dog walking on the grass or trying to wet their feet, it could be a major sign that the heat might be too hot for their paw pads. 


If their paw pads are left untreated and without proper paw care, they can become infected. Symptoms include:

  • Laying down and refusing to walk
  • Licking or chewing their feet
  • Discoloration in paw pads
  • Missing parts of paw pads
  • Blistering or redness
  • Inflamed paws (known as paw pad disease) 

If you notice your dog displaying these symptoms, take them home and see if their symptoms go away. If they don’t consult the advice of a veterinarian. 

What to do to stop your dog overheating?

Before your dog gets seriously ill, there are a few things you can do to stop them stop overheating. First of all, you can make sure they get enough shade in hot weather. 


Second, you can walk them in the morning or evening, so they don’t burn their pads. When the weather is hot, make sure you provide good airflow by placing a fan near them or letting them be in an air conditioned room. You may also wish to ask your vet to trim your dog’s hair shorter, so they’re cooler for the summer.

Final word


Did you know, obesity, breed, health, age, and the environment can significantly increase the risk of heat-related illnesses in dogs? The stress of extra weight leaves your dog susceptible to heat-related illnesses by causing unnecessary strain on the heart and regulatory system. 


Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds such as pugs, bulldogs, and boxers cannot release heat through their respiratory systems as well as other dogs can and are more prone to overheating. Other factors such as excessive heat and humidity in the environment or heat intolerance due to poor acclimation can also dramatically increase your dog’s chances of heat-related illnesses.


If your dog is showing any of these symptoms, consult your veterinarian immediately. Prevention is the best treatment, but if caught early enough, these illnesses can be treated. So, pay close attention and make sure you are doing everything you can to keep your pup safe this summer!

Does your dog have symptoms not listed here? They could be from a tick!



How do you rehydrate a dog?

To properly rehydrate a dog requires veterinarian treatment. They will often put a dog on an intravenous drip which will help replenish the fluids they’ve lost and reduce the chances of dehydration happening again. 


Vets also administer fluid under their skin, but this is less effective than an intravenous drip. Finally, if your dog is still drinking water, you can give them oral rehydration solutions to help them stay hydrated. Plus, some vets might prescribe your dog antibiotics, pain relief and anti-sickness medications. 


How long does it take for a dog to get dehydrated?

The amount of time it takes for a dog to get dehydrated can vary depending on the dog. Generally, older dogs, ill dogs, and pregnant dogs are more likely to become dehydrated quicker than others.


How do I force my dog to drink water?

You can’t literally force your dog to drink water if they’re choosing not to. You can, however, strategically place more options for them to, like drinking bowls around the house. Similarly, you could feed your dog wet food, add flavour to their water and always seek help from a vet.


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