Your fun in the sun can turn dangerous if you don’t take the proper precautions. Learn to look for symptoms of your dog overheating and act quickly to keep him safe.
Dogs, under normal circumstances, are good at regulating their body temperature, but extreme weather and physical activity can limit their ability to cool down.
The most effective ways that dogs regulate their temperature is through panting and sweating. Unlike us, dogs can't sweat all over their bodies, instead, they sweat through the pads of their paws. As the sweat evaporates, it draws out heat from their body.
Panting is also very effective, which is why you may notice your dog panting more when he's outside, even when he's not exerting energy. Panting works by circulating cool air into their body, lowering their temperature, and moving oxygen through the bloodstream.
The Risks of Your Dog Overheating
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 are unable to lower their temperature through panting or sweating, then serious conditions, like heat stroke, can occur.
Dogs naturally run hotter than us. Their standard body temperature is about 101.5 degrees F, but when exposed to a hot environment, their temperature can quickly rise. The risk of heat stroke or other life threatening results are very serious, so make sure you know what to look for and how to react.
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 symptoms, you can prevent heat stroke, so it’s important to be able to identify symptoms and adopt safe warm weather practices to help prevent your dog from overheating.
Dog Overheating Symptoms
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
- Body temperature of 102-104 F
These signs are always the easiest to spot, especially if you are engaged in a high energy activity or are spend long amounts of time outdoors in hot weather.
If you do notice your dog showing any of these symptoms, then you need to find ways to relax your dog and cool him down. This could be as simple as bringing him indoors and offering him some fresh, clean water.
Hot weather is meant to be enjoyed, but make sure you give your dogs breaks, keep him hydrated, and offer appropriate shade and shelter from the sun.
Moderate Overheating Symptoms
- Shaking or shivering
- 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.
It’s best to contact your vet for further advice. Depending on the severity of the symptoms and whether you are able to drop your dog’s temperature, your vet may recommend bringing him in to get checked out.
Heat Stroke Symptoms
- Loss of consciousness
- Disorientation or confusion
- 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. Do not try to force him to drink if he doesn't want to. Your vet will offer further instructions so that you can transport him safely to the nearest vet office.
Tips for Cooling an Overheated Dog
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.
- At first signs of overheating, bring your dog inside (if possible), or at very least into a cooler shaded area if you are outdoors.
- Offer water immediately, but don’t force it on him. Just make sure there is a constant supply of fresh, clean water available. If your dog refuses to drink, you can try offering small portions of a moisture rich food, like watermelon or goat’s milk to encourage him.
- Check your dog’s temperature. It’s a good idea to have a small rectal or ear thermometer in your pet’s first aid kit. Normal body temperature for dogs is 101.5 F. Slight elevations can be easily addressed, but the higher their temperature, the more danger your dog is in.
- Try to drop your dog’s temperature gradually. Soak a cloth or towel in room temperature water and lay it on his neck and chest. It’s not recommended to try to use ice or very cold water to drop your dog’s temperature too drastically, as this can lead to shock.
As the water on the towel evaporates, it will pull heat from your dog’s body. Place him in front of a gentle fan to speed up the evaporation process.
- Call your vet. Even if you are not sure if this is an emergency situation, a quick phone call could save your dog’s life.
Prevention is the Best Method
Summer is here and that means you and your dog will inevitably be spending more time outside. It also means that you have to take extra steps to prevent your dog overheating.
Whether you are on an adventurous hike or just hanging out in the backyard, make sure you are frequently checking in with your dog, checking for signs of overheating, and encouraging proper hydration.
Here are some do’s and don’ts of summer safety for dogs:
DO offer fresh, clean water at all times. Consider a water fountain for home, and try to have multiple water bowls available. This will encourage your dog to drink more often and keep him better hydrated.
If you are on an outdoor adventure, then make sure to pack more than enough water for you and your dog. You don’t want to get stuck out in the wilderness with no safe drinking water.
DON’T leave your dog unattended in a car, sun room, or an enclosure exposed to direct sun. Temps in enclosed spaces have limited air flow and the temperature can rise quickly in hot weather.
DO Provide shade and shelter from the sweltering sun. If you are camping or hiking, make sure you find spaces that offer protection from direct sunlight so you and your dog can take breaks to cool off.
Having shaded areas in your yard, like a dog house or a patio can also be helpful in letting your dog escape the heat.
DON’T overwork your dog. The hotter it is outside, the more relaxed your activities should be. Overexertion in extreme temperatures increases the risk of your dog overheating. You may need to supplement with some indoor activities on days with blistering heat.
DO consider packing cooling gear on your travels. When you don’t have access to shade or the ability to go inside, you will need to rely on cooling and sun protection gear to help regulate your dog’s body temp. A cooling bandana or vest, or a sun blocking shirt can keep your dog’s temperature lower and prevent sun burns.
DON’T Shave or trim your dog’s fur thinking it will help keep them cool. While some breeds are designed to be shaved regularly, most dog coats are designed to insulate, keeping in body heat in cold temperatures, and protecting against external heat sources, like the sun in the spring and summer.
Not all breeds are made for warm weather. Keep that in mind when choosing your pet-friendly summer activities. Many brachycephalic (short-snouted) breeds, like pugs, struggle with extreme temperatures, so it's important to choose activities that suit your pet.
Check out How to Cool Down a Dog for even more tips on beating the summer heat.
Hot weather is not the only reason you may see your dog overheating, or showing symptoms of overheating. Infections and illness can cause fevers, and other medical issues can present vomiting and other, more severe symptoms.
It’s important to call your vet if you notice symptoms of overheating that don’t get better, or continue to worsen despite you taking action.
Dogs with a higher risk of overheating due to illness, disease, or even breed should take more precaution during outdoor activities.
How do you keep your dog from overheating? Share your tips and stories in the comments below!
Posted 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 loves all animals but is currently channelling some crazy cat lady vibes with her five lovable, but rebellious cats.