Ask a Vet: How to tell if your dog is overheating

Learn the signs and symptoms of overheating, which dogs are more prone to it, and what to do if you suspect your dog is overheating.

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Jul 25, 2023

With the scorching heat of summer upon us, it's crucial to be aware of the risks of overheating for our furry companions. We’ve been getting a lot of questions around this topic—especially as the temperatures continue to rise—so we’ve put together a short blog post on the signs and symptoms of overheating, which dogs are more prone to it, and what to do if you suspect your dog is overheating.

Dogs Prone to Overheating

Certain dogs are more susceptible to overheating than others. Brachycephalic breeds, characterized by their adorable squished noses, are particularly prone to heatstroke. Breeds like English bulldogs, pugs, and French bulldogs have difficulty regulating their body temperature due to the shape of their nasal respiratory cavities.

Additionally, senior dogs, puppies, and dogs with chronic health conditions like allergies or asthma are at higher risk of overheating. These dogs may not have the same ability to self-regulate in hot environments, making them more vulnerable.

Overheating vs. Heat stroke

It's important to differentiate between overheating and heat stroke: Heatstroke is far more severe and occurs when a dog's internal temperature rises above 109° Fahrenheit (approximately 43° Celsius). At this point, the dog's cells may begin to die, potentially affecting vital organs like the brain, intestines, and kidneys.

The aftermath of heatstroke can last for months or even years, and unfortunately, it can sometimes be too late to save a dog's life once heatstroke sets in.

Causes of Overheating

The good news is that overheating is preventable. It occurs when external temperatures are high and can be exacerbated by factors such as high humidity, intense exercise, or poor air circulation.

What are the Signs of Overheating

Knowing the signs of overheating is essential in protecting your dog's health. Look out for the following indicators:

- Heavy, continuous panting
- Glazed eyes
- Weakness and/or collapse
- Increased pulse
- Vomiting
- Dark red tongue or gums
- Excessive drooling
- Seizures

What to Do if Your Dog is Overheating

If you suspect your dog is overheating, take immediate action. Move your pet to a cooler area, preferably in the shade or with air conditioning if available. Offer small amounts of water to drink to avoid causing vomiting, which could worsen dehydration. You can also cool your dog down by using a damp towel or water to wet its back, neck, and underarms. If possible, use a fan to provide a stream of cool air.

After an episode of overheating, it's advisable to consult your Parker & Ace veterinarian even if your dog appears to have recovered fully.

What can you do to prevent overheating?

Prevention is key, so take precautions to avoid overheating: walk your dog during the cooler parts of the day, for long-haired breeds, give them a suitable "summer" haircut, and never, under any circumstances, leave your dog in a car for any length of time.

During hot weather:

- Provide plenty of fresh water and ensure it's available at all times
- Keep your home cool by using fans or air conditioning
- Avoid leaving your dog in a car, even for a short period, as cars can become dangerously hot quickly
- Create shaded areas in your yard if your dog spends time outdoors

Remember, if your dog frequently overheats, there might be an underlying cause that requires attention and medical evaluation. Reach out to your Parker & Ace vet team, who can help you identify and address any potential health issues contributing to the problem.