How to Tell if Your Pet is Overheated – and What to Do About It
By Dr. Rachel Duncan, Veterinarian
The sun is shining, and the days are long. Summer is finally here! No better way to enjoy the season than by spending time outside, especially with your best four-legged friends. But before you grab the pack and go for a long hike, know some signs of overheating to keep your trusty companions safe.
Signs of overheating
Dogs begin to show several signs when they are overheated, including:
- Heavy panting or rapid breathing
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive drooling
- Disorientation or change in attitude
- Slower movement or reluctance to continue exercising (although some dogs will not slow down despite overheating!)
- Rapid heartbeat
- Elevated body temperature
- As body temperature rises to a severely elevated level, dogs may show any of these signs (immediately, or even after body temperature has been returned to normal):
- Collapse or seizures
- Bright red or blue mucus membranes/gums
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Bruising or red marks over body
Preventing heat-related disease
It takes only minutes of an extremely elevated body temperature to cause severe heat-related disease including heat exhaustion, heat stroke or death. Some close monitoring and early intervention can prevent tragic outcomes.
The best prevention is avoiding situations in which your dog may become overheated. Very warm weather or high humidity are indications to reduce exercise and stay inside until it’s cooler out. Morning or evening, instead of mid-day, may be the best time for providing more activity. Car interiors also become extremely hot very quickly even in moderate temperatures. Never leave your dog in a parked vehicle for any period of time.
Also consider the breed of dog you have, and his or her body condition. Shorter-nose breeds and heavier animals have more difficulty cooling themselves off and are at more risk of heat-related disease. Very young and senior animals should also be monitored more closely.
Treatments for Overheating
If you suspect your dog is becoming overheated, or have any concern due to activity level or ambient temperature, provide these supportive measures:
- Move to shaded area or go inside. Provide cool air via fan or air conditioning if able.
- Encourage or enforce rest
- Provide fresh drinking water in small amounts frequently
- Allow your dog to submerge in cool water. If no body of water is close by, wet down your dog with water or soaked towels. Apply towels to neck, armpits and between hind legs. Wet paw pads and ears with cool water. Do not apply ice or use very cold water; these measures can cause shivering or shock response.
Bringing your dog to the veterinarian
If you have any concern your dog is not responding to early measures or displays any of the above late signs of overheating, bring your dog immediately to an emergency veterinary hospital. More aggressive stabilization and treatment can be provided.
Please enjoy the dog days of summer safely by protecting against heat-related disease!