Heat is the biggest risk your dog faces in the summer. Overheating can come on quickly and the results can be devastating, including organ failure, stroke, heart attack, permanent neurological damage, and even the loss of your pet. Understanding the risk factors, signs, symptoms, and how to prevent heat stroke could very well save your pup’s life. Here’s what you need to know about overheating in dogs.
What Does Overheating Look Like?
Overheating, dehydration and heatstroke are fairly easy to spot if you know what to look for. All of the following signs/symptoms are associated with overheating in dogs:
- Excessive panting
- Excessive, unusually thick drooling
- Dark, dry or pale gums
- Faster than normal heart rate
- Fever above 105° F
- Noisy, labored breathing
- Difficulty walking/standing
- Seizures or convulsions
- Sunken or glassy eyes
What Dogs are at Risk of Overheating?
Any canine in a hot space can overheat, but some dogs are more at risk than others. Lack of shade, lack of water, too much exercise in hot or humid conditions, and lack of ventilation also raise the likelihood that your pup will overheat or become dehydrated. The following types of dogs are more vulnerable to overheating:
- Dogs with extremely thick or long coats (but do not shave them, doing so can cause sunburn)
- Obese dogs
- Dogs kept primarily outside
- Senior dogs
- Dogs with medical issues, such as breathing problems or heart conditions
- Dogs with short noses: such as shih tzus, pugs, boxers, bulldogs, french bulldogs, boston terriers, pekingese
How to Prevent Overheating
Overheating is scary, but the good news is that it’s quite easy to prevent. Here’s how to help your pup avoid dehydration and overheating this summer:
- Avoid walking, hiking or other exercise with your dog during the hottest times of the day. Go with early morning or evening instead.
- Ensure your dog has plenty of ventilation, including indoors and when traveling in a car (never leave your dog in a car unattended).
- Provide your dog with plenty of shade, rest breaks, and water when outside (offer water at least once every hour). Additionally, bring water on every walk, hike or any other outdoor activity you share with your pooch.
- Keep the inside of your home cool, too.
- Lastly, closely monitor your pet for the signs and symptoms of overheating mentioned above.
What to Do if Your Dog is Overheated
First thing’s first: at the first sign of dehydration or overheating, move your dog to cooler space immediately. Then, follow these 3 simple steps:
- Cool down your dog using cool—not cold—water. A bathtub, shower, garden hose, wet washcloth, pool or natural body of water all work. If using a hose or cloth, place special focus on the head and neck area, and under the armpits.
- Offer your dog cool—but again, not cold—water to drink. Let them drink as much as they like. Giving them water that’s too cold can lead to shock and vomiting, which will only make their dehydration and overheating worse.
- Lastly, get your dog to a vet ASAP. Even if you feel your pet is now O.K., overheating and heat stroke can cause hidden complications, such as organ damage, blood clots and swelling of the brain. If you feel your dog’s condition is serious (especially if they’re unresponsive), call the vet ahead of time to let them know you’re bringing in an animal that needs emergency medical attention.