12 Signs Your Dog Is Becoming Overheated

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

dogs overheating in the summer

Story at-a-glance -

  • Summer is arriving, and with the wonders of warm weather come heat hazards for canine family members
  • The biggest danger for dogs on summer days is the risk of overheating and ultimately, heatstroke
  • If you’re afraid your dog is overheated or experiencing heatstroke, immediate action is necessary
  • Signs of overheating in dogs include panting, excessive thirst, and weakness
  • Dogs at increased risk for heatstroke include brachycephalic breeds, seniors, puppies, and dogs with chronic health conditions

Summer is on the way and much as we love the warm weather, long days and sunshine, it's important to take some precautions if you're a dog parent. That's because our canine family members have a higher average body temperature than we do, and less ability to cool down.

The human body is literally covered with sweat glands, but dog sweat glands are found only on the nose and the pads of the feet. Canines regulate their body temperature primarily by panting, which isn't terribly efficient in hot weather. In a very short period of time, an overheated dog can suffer severe, irreversible damage to the brain, heart, liver and nervous system.

Signs Your Dog is in Danger

Heatstroke, which is the eventual and often deadly result of overheating, is caused by a dangerously high body temperature. While it most often occurs in dogs left in cars during the summer months, it can also happen in late spring and the first weeks of summer if your dog is exposed to high temperatures before he has adapted to the heat.

In addition to hot vehicles, other contributors to overheating in dogs include lack of drinking water, humid conditions, overexertion and obesity.

Some dogs are at higher risk for heat-related illness than others, especially brachycephalic breeds (flat-faced dogs), as well as older pets, puppies, dog who are ill or have a chronic health condition, those not used to warm weather, and any dog left outside in the heat. Symptoms of overheating include:

Elevated body temperature

Weakness, collapse

Heavy panting or rapid breathing

Bright or dark red tongue, gums

Excessive drooling

Staggering, stumbling

Glazed eyes

Vomiting, bloody diarrhea

Excessive thirst


Increased pulse and heartbeat


What to Do If Your Dog Becomes Overheated

If you think your dog is experiencing heatstroke, you must take immediate action. Move him to a cool area, preferably with air conditioning. At a minimum, move him out of direct sunlight and to a shady spot.

If he's able to stand, or is at least conscious, offer him small amounts of water to drink and take his temperature rectally if possible. If the temp is 104°F or lower, continue to offer small drinks of water. Take care not to give a large amount of water all at once, which can cause vomiting that leads to dehydration. When your dog seems more comfortable, call your veterinarian for instructions on what to do next.

If he's unable to stand without assistance, is unresponsive, or is having seizures, first check for breathing and a heartbeat. At the same time, someone should call the closest veterinary hospital to let them know you're on your way with your dog.

Immediately start cooling him down by soaking his body with cool (not cold) water, using a hose, wet towels, or any other available source of cool water. Concentrate the water on his head, neck and the areas underneath the front and back legs. If possible, try to pour some water over his tongue, but don't let it run into his throat as it could get into the lungs. Never put water into the mouth of a pet that can't swallow on his own.

Put a fan on your dog if possible, as it will speed up the cooling process. Take his temperature if you can. After a few minutes, recheck the temp. If it's at or below 104°F, stop the cooling process to prevent blood clotting or a too-low body temperature. Get your dog to a veterinary clinic immediately, even if he seems to be recovering.

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Keeping Your Dog Safe All Summer

1. Never, ever leave her alone in a parked car — On a warm day, the temperature inside your car or truck can rise quickly into the danger zone. For example, on an 85-degree day it takes only 10 minutes for the temperature inside your parked car to climb to 102 degrees.

In a half hour, it can rise to 120 degrees. Leaving windows cracked doesn't drop the temperature inside the vehicle, and leaving your car running with the air conditioner on is dangerous for a number of reasons.

Leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle in extreme heat or cold is a criminal act in several states and municipalities. Most statutes have rescue provisions that allow certain individuals, for example police officers, firefighters, animal control officers, and store employees to do whatever is necessary to rescue an animal trapped in a vehicle in extreme temperatures.

On summer days, it's best to leave your pet home, inside, where she can stay cool, hydrated, and safe.

"Outside dogs" may need to come inside, or somewhere cooler, when temperatures rise above 95 degrees. Shade (and warm water) will not prevent heatstroke in extreme temperatures.

2. Provide fresh clean drinking water at all times — In addition to overheating, your dog can become dehydrated very rapidly in warm weather. A good general guideline is that a healthy dog should drink between ½ and 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight each day.

And if he'll be outside for any length of time, he should have access to complete shade. Periodically encourage him to play in the sprinkler or gently hose him off with cool water to prevent overheating.

3. Avoid walking him on paved surfaces — Not only can pavement on a hot day burn your dog's paws, but the heat rising from concrete or asphalt can quickly overheat an animal that lives close to the ground. Also don't allow your dog to stand, walk or rest on hot outdoor surfaces like sidewalks or parking lots.

If you must walk her across pavement in the heat of the day, plot the shortest route and walk at a brisk pace. If she's not too large or heavy, consider carrying her till you reach a cooler surface. If all else fails, dog shoes work to prevent burned pads.

4. Schedule outdoor activities for the coolest parts of the day — In most places, this means early in the morning or after sunset. Try to stay in the shade during daylight hours, and no matter the time of day, don't overdo outdoor exercise or play sessions. Even on an overcast day or in the evening, a long period of physical exertion in hot weather can cause your dog to overheat.

A good rule of thumb is if outdoor temps hit 90 degrees, your four-legged family member should be indoors where it's cool.


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