First aid for a dog that is overheating includes ensuring that your dog has plenty of access to cool water, and bringing them into a shaded area out of direct sun. They may also benefit from a fan. Do not lay a wet towel over your dog, as this will prevent evaporation and can act as an insulating layer that gradually warms up. You can try wetting your dog, but do not continue to do so if your dog is becoming distressed, as this will worsen their panting. If their condition does not improve within half an hour, or they are showing symptoms of heat stroke, seek veterinary advice.
What are some signs that a dog is overheated?
In mild cases, a dog is likely to be excessively thirsty and pant more than normal. This is often referred to as heat exhaustion and will generally resolve within half an hour. But if your pet’s condition worsens or they show additional symptoms, you should contact a vet for advice.
More severe cases are often referred to as heat stroke. Symptoms include dizziness, restlessness, disorientation, inappetence, nausea, drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea. Additional signs that you may notice include a change in gum colour – either very bright red or very pale. In most serious instances, heat stroke can lead to seizures and collapse. Heat stroke is an emergency and a vet should be contacted straight away.
What happens if a dog overheats?
Many dogs are able to make a full recovery from heat stroke. Yet there can be a range of more serious effects including muscle damage, neurological damage, acute kidney injury, acute pancreatitis and acute respiratory distress syndrome.
What are the consequences of overheating?
Some of the effects of overheating lead to lasting damage, but seeking early veterinary intervention can help to reduce their impact. Your pet may need a blood test to investigate the extent of potential damage to their internal organs. Sometimes a dog will appear to get better, but can become ill again over the next few days. Sadly, heat stroke can lead to death, especially if left untreated.
How can you prevent a dog from overheating?
A common cause of heat exhaustion is leaving a dog in a hot car. In fact, the outdoor temperature does not need to be excessively high for a car to become too warm for your pet, because the glass windows trap in heat from the sun’s rays. It is best not to leave your pet unattended in a vehicle, even for a few minutes.
It is also common for a dog to overheat after a walk during the hot weather. Avoid walking your pet during the hottest part of the day, and instead opt to walk them in the early morning before the air temperature has risen too high. You should also make sure that the ground temperature is not too hot, as this can burn the skin on your dog’s pads. Test whether you are able to touch the ground for 10 seconds with a bare hand. If not, then the ground will be painful to your pet, and risk burning them.
Keeping your dog cool at home
There are a range of pet products available that can help keep your pet cool, such as a dog cooling mat. But keep in mind that these will eventually become warm and less effective if your pet lies on them for too long in one go.
If your dog is overheating at night, consider offering them a mat or rug to lie on instead of their bed as this will be less insulated. Leave windows open for a draft if it is safe (for you and your pet) to do so. Your dog should also have plenty of access to cool water 24/7. If your dog shows signs of heatstroke during the night, you should contact the out-of-hours veterinary service as an emergency.
Which dog breeds overheat easily?
Brachycephalic (short-nosed) or thick-coated dog breeds can be more prone to overheating. But other factors such as age and temperament can also make an individual more prone, with older or excitable pets more at risk of overheating.
When should I talk to a vet?
If your dog is showing symptoms of heat stroke or their heat exhaustion does not improve after 30 minutes, you should contact a vet. At an appointment your pet will have a thorough clinical examination and may have their temperature monitored using a rectal thermometer. If their condition is severe, they will be admitted to hospital for monitoring and treatment. They may also require blood tests.