How to Cool Down a Dog: Dog Overheating Symptoms and What to Do

15 Minute Read
Updated July 1, 2022

Summer often brings blistering hot temperatures. If you live in an area with sweltering summer heat, then you need to know how to tell if your dog is overheating and how to cool down a dog after a walk, so that they can still enjoy their favourite outdoor activities

Fun in the sun brings opportunities for lots of outdoor adventures, but for your dog, that fun can quickly turn dangerous if you don't consider how well they can tolerate the weather. Your dog should always have access to cool water.

Place ice cubes in the water bowl with H2O to keep your pup cool on a hot summer day.

In Canada, our winters are long, and our summers can seem way too short, but that doesn't mean that we don't feel the heat for at least a few months every year.

During that time, it's vital that you know how to cool down a dog and prevent them from overheating.

Even indoor temps will soar, so be aware of how the temperature in your house, your car, and outside are affecting your dog.


Do Dogs Overheat Easily?

Dogs, under normal circumstances, are good at regulating their body temperature, but extreme summer heat, hot temperatures, and physical activity can limit their ability to cool down.

Limit outdoor time. Most dogs will prefer being in the house by their pet parents lounging on a cooling mat instead of outdoors and uncomfortably hot.

Read on to learn how to look for symptoms of your dog or puppy overheating and act quickly to keep him safe!



How Do Dogs Cool Down?

how to cool down a dog

So, how do dogs regulate their body temperature on their own?

The most effective ways that dogs cool down and regulate their temperature is through panting and sweating. These things help your four-legged friend maintain a normal body temperature for dogs.

Panting is also very effective, which is why you may notice your dog experiencing excessive panting more when he's outside, even when he's not exerting energy.

The act of panting works by circulating cool air into their body, lowering their temperature, and moving oxygen through the bloodstream of the hot dog.

Similarly to us, dogs sweat through their paw pads. As sweat is produced in the paw pads, it begins to evaporate, removing heat from your dog's body and lowering their overall body temperature.


The Risks of Your Dog Overheating

how to help a dog cool down

The first and most common risk of overheating is dehydration. Dehydration can affect every system of their body, and as they lose water through sweating, panting, and drooling, that water needs to be replenished to avoid the dangerous symptoms of dehydration.

The more time your dog spends outside in the blistering heat, the more likely he is to overheat. Overheating raises their internal body temperature, and if they cannot lower their temperature through panting or sweating, serious conditions, like heat stroke, can occur.

Dogs naturally run hotter than us. Their standard body temperature is about 101.5 degrees F, but their temperature can quickly rise when exposed to a hot environment.

The risk of heat stroke or other life-threatening results when dogs overheat is very serious, so make sure you know what to look for and how to react.

Knowing how to check for signs of discomfort, even checking their vitals in extreme weather, or if you notice them acting odd, can be a lifesaver. 

What is Heat Stroke?

Heatstroke happens when your dog’s body temperature is too high for them to be able to regulate on their own. This can lead to cell and organ damage, seizures, collapse, and eventually death if you don’t act quickly.

Generally speaking, if you intervene at the first sign of dog overheated symptoms, you can prevent heat stroke or heat exhaustion, so it’s important to be able to identify symptoms and adopt safe warm weather practices to help prevent your dog from overheating.


Body Temperature Overheating Symptoms

To prevent severe reactions such as dehydration or heat stroke in your dog, it's important to monitor your dog's behaviour and note any physical signs that your dog's body heat has increased dangerously.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of overheating in dogs:

    • Excessive Panting
    • Lethargy
    • Vomiting
    • Retching 
    • Shaking
    • Seizures 

If you see any of these symptoms of overheating or heatstroke in your dog, you should contact your local veterinarian immediately.

Let's go over how to identify signs of your dog overheating so that you know when and how to take action.

Mild Overheating Symptoms

    • Panting heavily
    • Excessive drooling
    • Lethargy
    • Body temperature of 102-104 F

These signs are always the easiest to spot, especially if you and your dog are engaged in a high-energy activity or spending long amounts of time outdoors when the mercury starts to rise.

Moderate Overheating Symptoms

    • Weakness
    • Stumbling
    • Shaking or shivering
    • Vomiting
    • Glazed eyes
    • Body temp 104-106 F

These symptoms are much more serious. Bring him inside and keep him in a well-ventilated area with fans or air conditioning.

Heat Stroke Symptoms

    • Seizures
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Disorientation or confusion
    • Collapse
    • Body temp 106 F+

This is an emergency, and your dog is in imminent danger. You need to act quickly to avoid permanent damage. Get your dog inside, and call your vet immediately.


How to Cool Down Your Dog

If your fun in the sun starts to take a turn for the worse, don't panic. Playing outside on a hot day can be fun, but you need to know how to keep your dog cool so that they can stay safe.

With a little planning, you can keep your pup cool.

7 Ways to Keep Your Dog Cool and Prevent Overheating

best way to cool down an overheated dog

1. Hydration

A consistent supply of fresh water can save your dog's life. Never skimp on water.

Whether you're on a hike, playing in the backyard, or simply relaxing on the porch, your dog should always have plenty of fresh water available.

Make sure you are carrying the right gear for outdoor activities, like portable water bottles and travel bowls. If you are dealing with dogs with flat faces, you should accommodate them accordingly.

Even playtime indoors can pose a risk. If you don't have air conditioning or good air circulation in your home, then chances are your dog is feeling the temperature and should be drinking water on a hot summer's day to stay cool.

Keep the water bowl full with chilled water throughout the summer months to keep your dog safe during the warmer weather and hot days.

2. Cooling Gear

Many products are now commercially available that help to cool your pup down. Cooling mats, bandanas, vests, and collars are widely available in a variety of styles and formats.

Each cooling product will help your dog stay cool in the summer or on a hot day.

The most common style of dog cooling vest is made to be dampened and then worn by your dog. The water cool down vest is great for dogs who are hiking or going for walks because they provide core protected to prevent more internal heat from developing

Many dogs like to lay on cold soil in extreme heat. Cooling mats are great for a bed or crate to stay cool in the summer on a hot day.

The water will slowly evaporate from cooling mats, so the body heat transfers as your dog lays there on the mat's cold surface in a similar fashion to sweat.

If you don't have access to a cooling mat, use wet towels in place of cooling mats during the summer months to keep your dog cool.

As a cheap, DIY cooling option, soak a blanket, towel, bandana, or even just their collar in cool water from the garden hose to help chill them. This is a great way to help reduce body temperature if you are concerned that your dog is starting to overheat.

The water will keep your dog somewhat comfortable, especially if there is a cool breeze blowing across the wet dog.

If you don't have access to cooling gear, use a bag of frozen peas to cool down your dog.

3. Limit Heat Exposure

The most obvious option for cooling your pet is to limit the amount of time that they spend in hot temperatures.

Outdoor activities should be broken into shorter and more frequent sessions, allowing your dog to rest and cool down before continuing their activity.

Leaving your dog in a hot car can quickly become fatal as the temperature will continue to rise.

Heatstroke and death can occur within 30 minutes if the temperatures are hot enough. Cracking a window is not enough!

Check out this chart to see just how quickly your car can heat up:

If you were to sit in your car in the hot sun for a few minutes, you'd get pretty uncomfortable pretty quickly, so please don't do this to your pet.

4. Water Sports

If you are looking for fun and safe outdoor activities for your pet, try some water sports. Take your dog to the lake, get him a kiddie pool, or even play with a sprinkler or hose in the backyard.

how to help a dog cool down

Many water toys can be purchased to help your dog enjoy summer and stay safe. 

Toys that can be frozen or that float are all great options for encouraging playtime and physical activity while maintaining appropriate body temperature.

5. Frozen Treats

Frozen Treats

A great way to help cool your dog is to feed cold treats. Frozen dog treats, raw bones, frozen dog toys, and pupsicles are a tasty snack that will lower your dog's body temperature.

You can invest in frozen dog toys, which are similar to baby teething rings. You simply freeze the toy for hours of cool fun - similar to ice cubes.

Raw bones can be fed defrosted or completely frozen and are a safer alternative to cooked or smoked bones.

Bones will give your pup a good jaw workout, mentally stimulate them, and hydrate them all at the same time.

Learn more about Raw Bones for Dogs and how to pick the safest option for your dog's next summer treat. 

best way to cool down an overheated dog


6. Protect the Paws 

Choose the Right Turf


If you do run or walk my dog on paved paths, try your best to protect your dog's paws. Waxes and lotions can provide a protective layer that conditions their pads and prevents burns, but dog boots are a good idea in extreme weather.

When looking for dog boots, make sure that you choose boots that aren't designed for winter. This type of boot is often fleece lined and doesn't breathe well, so you may not be doing your dog any favours regarding body temperature.

7. Timing

Time your outdoor activities with the weather.

Midday is when the sun is the hottest, so schedule walks, runs, or hikes in the early morning or after dinner. The sun, air, and ground will be cooler at dawn and dusk, so it's the ideal time to let your dog enjoy some summer fun.

how to cool your dog in the summer

During these cooler times of the day, you can even try out some glow-in-the-dark and LED toys, like the ones from our list of Best Outdoor Dog Toys

Make sure you are prepared for cleaning up, though. Dog parks can get muddy easily, so having some pet wipes or a car seat cover will save the headache of muddy paw prints all over the car or house training.


Tips for Cooling an Overheated Dog

Keep in mind that some things can be done to help gradually reduce your dog's body temp, but if you're dealing with moderate symptoms or signs of heatstroke, getting your dog to a vet is vital. Heatstroke is life-threatening!

It's also important to never try to drastically lower your pup's temperature. Things like ice baths and encouraging them to drink cold water can shock their bodies.

If your dog is overheating, then there are some steps you can take to get his temperature down. This doesn't mean he's in the clear, and you may still need to call your vet, but you should still try to cool your dog off until you can get the appropriate medical attention, beginning with cool water.

You want to cool your pup gradually using these tips:

  1. Go Inside - At first signs of overheating, bring your dog indoors (if possible), or at the very least into a cool shaded area out of direct sunlight if you are outdoors. 
  2. Hydrate - Offer water immediately, but don't force it on him. Just ensure a constant supply of fresh, clean water is available. If your dog refuses to drink, you can try offering small portions of moisture-rich food, like watermelon or goat's milk, to encourage him.
  3. Get Wet - Soak a cloth or bath towel in room temperature water and lay it on his neck and chest. Don't use ice or cold water as this can drop your dog's temp too fast and lead to shock. As the water on the damp towel evaporates, it will help pull heat from your pup's body and lower their body temp gradually.

Prevention is very important when letting your dog participate in summer activities. Helping them manage their body temperatures isn't as hard as you might think.


Know Your Breed

Your dog's breed can be a factor in how they handle warmer temperatures. Coat, respiratory function, and genetics can limit your dog's ability to regulate its body temperature.

We broke down some common breeds into two groups, those that are hot weather approved and those that are hot weather susceptible.

Dogs that originally come from warmer and drier climates are more capable of handling North American summer temps.

While not all the dogs on our list come from hot climates, they are physiologically designed to regulate body temperature well.

Here are some of the most popular hot weather dog breeds:

    • Chihuahua
    • Greyhounds/Whippets
    • Terrier Breeds
    • Vizsla
    • Weimaraner
    • Beagles
    • Border Collie
    • Doberman Pinschers

Breeds Not Built for Hot Weather

Dogs built for cold weather tend to have a lot of trouble regulating their body temperature in hot weather. Their coats and size can prevent their body from reducing their temperature. Overweight dogs are also in danger.

how to cool down a dog

Brachycephalic (short-snouted) breeds can also have issues dealing with the heat. Their squished nasal and sinus passages can affect their ability to pant properly. Take extra care with these breeds to prevent overheating.

Here are some common breeds that are susceptible to hot weather:

    • Bulldogs and French Bulldogs
    • Boston Terriers
    • Pugs
    • Chow Chows
    • Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes
    • Boxers
    • Pekingese

Obesity will affect how your dog regulates body temperature. Even breeds that are normally compatible with warm weather will be at risk for heatstroke if they are overweight.

how to help a dog cool down

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you keep your dog cool?

Provide plenty of fresh water, shade, and keep them indoors during the hottest parts of the day. You might also want to invest in cooling gear.

Can I give my dog ice to cool down?

Yes, ice or other frozen treats can be helpful for cooling down your dog. 

Should I shave my dog's fur to keep them cooler?

No, shaving your dog's fur can actually make them more vulnerable to sunburn and heat exhaustion. Regular brushing can help remove excess fur and keep them cool.

Can I take my dog for a walk in the heat?

It's best to avoid walks during the hottest parts of the day. If you do go out, be sure to bring water and take frequent breaks in the shade. You also might want to protect your dog's paws

How can I cool my dog down if they become overheated?

Wet your dog with cool water, place a cool towel over them, and give them water to drink. If their condition worsens, seek veterinary care immediately.

What are the signs of heat exhaustion in dogs?

Signs of heat exhaustion include heavy panting, excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. If you notice these symptoms, take your dog to a cool place and give them water to drink.

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Written by

Krystn Janisse

Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She is currently working for one very rebellious cat, Jack, and hanging out with a goofy but loveable doggo named Roxy.


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