As summer temperatures rise, our pets are at a higher risk for heat exhaustion. Unlike humans, pets have fewer ways to cool down, making them more susceptible to overheating. Understanding the signs of heat exhaustion in pets can help you act quickly to protect their health. Here are five key signs to watch for:

  1. Excessive Panting and Drooling – Panting is a normal behavior for dogs, especially when they’re hot. However, excessive panting—faster and more intense than usual—can be a sign of heat exhaustion. Accompanying this with an unusual amount of drooling indicates that your pet is struggling to regulate their body temperature. For cats, open-mouth panting is rare and should be taken seriously.
  2. Lethargy and Weakness – Heat exhaustion often makes pets unusually lethargic. If your usually energetic dog or playful cat is suddenly sluggish, reluctant to move, or seems unusually weak, it’s a warning sign. They may lie down and be unwilling to get up, or they may struggle to stand or walk.
  3. Vomiting and Diarrhea – Overheating can cause gastrointestinal distress in pets. If your pet starts vomiting or has diarrhea, especially when combined with other symptoms of heat exhaustion, it’s a cause for concern. These symptoms can quickly lead to dehydration, exacerbating the problem.
  4. Rapid Heartbeat – A rapid or irregular heartbeat is a serious symptom of heat exhaustion. You may notice your pet’s chest rapidly rising and falling or feel their heartbeat racing when you place your hand on their chest. This indicates that their body is under significant stress trying to cool down.
  5. Bright Red or Pale Gums – Check your pet’s gums as a quick health indicator. Bright red gums can signal heat exhaustion, while pale or white gums can indicate severe dehydration and shock. Both require immediate veterinary attention. Healthy gums should be a pinkish color, so any deviation from this can be a sign of trouble.

What to Do if You Suspect Heat Exhaustion – If you observe any of these signs, immediately move your pet out of the heat and into a cool, shaded area or an air-conditioned room. Provide small amounts of cool (not cold) water, but don’t force them to drink too much at once. Use cool, damp towels on their body, especially the head, neck, and chest, avoiding ice-cold water or ice packs to prevent shock. Finally, call your veterinarian at Alton Main Animal Hospital as heat exhaustion can escalate quickly, and professional help is crucial even if your pet seems to be improving.

Preventing Heat Exhaustion – Prevention is always better than cure. Here are a few tips to keep your pets safe during hot weather: Never leave pets in cars, as even with windows cracked, the temperature inside a car can rise rapidly and become life-threatening. Limit exercise by avoiding strenuous activities during the hottest parts of the day, and opt for early morning or late evening walks when it’s cooler. Ensure your pet always has access to fresh water and a shady spot if they’re outside. Additionally, watch for humidity, as high humidity can also contribute to heat exhaustion by hindering your pet’s ability to cool down through panting.

By being aware of the signs of heat exhaustion and taking preventative measures, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable summer for both you and your furry friend. If you have any concerns or questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at Alton Main Animal Hospital for advice and assistance.

Stay cool and take care!