Content Reviewed by an Essentials PetCare Veterinarian

As summer approaches, it is important to keep an eye on your furry friend’s temperature and know the signs of overheating in dogs. Why? Because overheating is all too common in dogs, and the effects can be both fast and devastating

If left unaddressed, overheating in dogs can be deadly serious. Especially for dogs with thick coats, their body temperature can climb over 106 degrees rapidly, on a hot day. This can lead to heat stress, exhaustion, and stroke. The resulting organ damage can even prove fatal.

Read on to learn the signs of overheating in dogs, as well as steps to prevent and react before your dog gets into trouble from the heat. 

Why Do Dogs Overheat So Easily?

The key fact to remember about dogs in hot weather is: dogs don’t sweat. When humans sweat, it helps us cool down quickly – especially with the presence of even a slight breeze or fan. Dogs, on the other hand, have to pant to lower their internal temperature.

Because of this, you’ll notice that dogs pant rapidly when they’re hot. You’ve probably seen the way their tongues drip like an A/C unit chugging outdoors on a hot day. This is their body trying to cool off.

The heat is passing through their airways and “evaporating” out of their mouth. Your dog relies on drinking cool water to move this process along, which is why it is essential to keep your pooch’s water dish full on hot days.

So, what are some of the signs of overheating in dogs that you should watch for?

Frantic Panting

You can tell when your dog’s panting crosses the line from fast to frantic. This will usually be accompanied by a sense of disorientation. They may look around in confusion, stumble or appear wobbly/dizzy, and breathe in louder gasps. These are signs that their system is stressed and becoming overwhelmed.

Mouth Reactions

Some of the most common signs of overheating in dogs revolve around their mouth. Checking your dog’s mouth can help you determine his temperature level as well. Since the tongue is dispensing warm moisture, his slobber may spill out in a greater amount than usual. Your pup’s gums and tongue might also turn a bright red as blood rushes to the blood vessels of the mouth where exhalation is occurring to assist in the cooling process.  

Veterinarians recommend a simple “gum test” to see if your dog is dehydrated. Press on your dog’s gums with one or two fingertips. The gums will briefly turn white in the location where pressure is applied, but the color should spring back quickly to a bright pink color. If it doesn’t, give your dog water as quickly as possible. If your dog is not drinking or has moved to the vomiting stage of overheating, get to an emergency veterinarian, who will supply your pet with IV fluids. The gums should also be moist to the touch.  If they are dry and sticky, this is another sign that your dog is becoming dehydrated. 

More Extreme Reactions to Heat Stress

As mentioned above, your dog’s reactions to heat will grow as their condition worsens. These are less common signs of overheating in dogs because they indicate that the problem has become truly serious:

  • Vomiting
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Collapsing
  • Seizures

In these instances, it is important to take your dog to an emergency veterinarian. Don’t take the chance of waiting – not even for a same-day appointment. If overheating damages your dog’s organs, you will both pay for it in the long run. 

How to Prevent Overheating

On hot summer days, your actions as a dog parent can make all the difference. Maintain these practices to keep your pup healthy and safe in the heat:

  • Keep cool, fresh water readily available.
  • Exercise your dog in the cooler parts of the day, generally before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.
  • Check the heat intensity of pavement before walking – if your dog is closer to the ground, she is going to absorb more of it! Plus, very hot pavement can burn her paws. If you feel extreme, radiant heat when holding your palm a few inches above the ground, either don’t go out or use heat-protection canine booties.
  • Never leave your dog in the car. Even with the window cracked, inner car temperatures can exceed 160 degrees within minutes. Many dogs perish from overheating in cars, every year. Dogs should not be in a car over 80 degrees, and they should never be left alone in a car or vehicle.
  • Take frequent breaks. If your dog must be outside with you for any type of activity during the heat of the day, be sure to take frequent breaks for resting and rehydrating rather than having long periods of high activity. The break will be protective for both of you! 

In the event of an overheating emergency, remember: take your dog to an emergency veterinary hospital. Essentials PetCare focuses on preventative and minor illness care. We refer pets to emergency and full-service hospitals for issues that are beyond our scope of services.

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