Caitlin UltimoHealth / Symptoms & Solutions

How to Cool Down a Dog Overheating

As the summer heat index rises, our furry friends easily can overheat. A dog overheating is nothing to mess around with, as canine heat stroke is deadly and 100 percent preventable.

Keep your hot dog safe with these tips to recognize the signs of a dog overheating and how to cool down a dog from summer heat.

Signs of a Dog Overheating

Instead of sweating like people do to fight a rise in core temperatures, our canine companions’ first defense against overheating is to pant. Rapid breathing in dogs cools them down by circulating the air through their bodies.

Another way dogs naturally maintain steady body temperatures in searing conditions is by diverting blood away from their core and toward the skin. This might make them feel hotter to the touch, but it allows heat to escape from their bodies.

When these two cooling mechanisms cannot keep a dog’s body temperature at a safe level, she can overheat and is at risk for heat stroke. Fortunately, the signs of a dog overheating are easy to recognize. They are:

  • Rapid breathing or excessive panting in dogs
  • Lethargy or refusal to obey or respond to commands
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Bright red or blue gums
  • Seizures or collapse

Is your dog at risk? Pets who are overweight, recovering from surgery or sickness, seniors or have short-nosed heads like Pugs or Bulldogs, are more susceptible to overheating. Certain medications also increase a dog’s susceptibility to overheating. These include some cardiac medications and commonly prescribed tranquilizers and anxiety-decreasing medications often utilized during summer travel.

How to Cool Down a Dog

If you suspect your dog is overheating, act fast to initiate the cool-down process. Here are four steps to follow:

  1. Put your dog in a cool bath or hose her down with a garden hose. Avoid ice water as this can cause life-threatening consequences.
  2. Offer her some water, but do not waste time forcing her to drink because it’s not going to lower her temperature in itself.
  3. Load your wet dog into the car and quickly head to the veterinarian. Call on your way to let them know your concern so they can take appropriate preparatory measures.
  4. Run your car air conditioning with the windows down for the drive. The evaporation helps lower warm body temperatures.

How to Prevent Overheating in Dogs

The dangers of a dog overheating are entirely avoidable and often fatal. Follow these simple vet-recommended tips to keep your pup safe when the mercury rises:

Never leave your dog in a hot car.

Just don’t do it—even for a few minutes, when the car is parked in the shade, or if the windows are cracked.

By far, the most common way a dog overheats is being left in a hot car. The temperature inside a car rapidly surpasses the outside temperature, so even on days where the temperature is in the 70s, the temperature inside the car can reach scorching heights.

Exercise your dog during the cooler parts of the day.

It’s best to exercise your dog in the early morning and evening to avoid the intense sunshine.

If your schedule doesn’t permit this, consider alternate exercises for your pooch, such as swimming, sprinkler play breaks and a basic hose down to keep her body temperature from rising dangerously high.

Always provide plenty of fresh water.

A recirculating dog drinking fountain, like Drinkwell’s Platinum Pet Fountain is a popular vet-recommended way to encourage dogs to maintain hydration. A dog drinking fountain also prevents warm, stagnant water.

Beat the heat with cool zones and a dog cooling mat.

Scorching contact temperatures of sand, asphalt and pavers can cause burns on paw pads, making these surfaces a non-option for dogs to rest. Shade helps, but be aware that the sun’s changing position can limit shady backyard retreats.

For a simple solution, try a dog cooling mat such as K&H Pet Products’ Cool Bed. Such dog beds require no electricity and uses water to cool from the inside-out.

Brush your dog’s coat regularly.

It might be tempting to simply shave down your pup’s fur to help her stay cool, but think twice. For some dogs, their fur insulates against the summer heat and the winter chill, similar to how home insulation works.

Instead, regular brushing can help prevent a dog overheating. It prevents matting and allows for good air circulation through the coat.

Danger Zone: The Consequences of Overheating

When a dog’s core body temperature escalates, blood is diverted away from key organs, such as the brain, kidneys, GI tract and liver. While this helps cool the dog, organ failure sets in when the organs aren’t receiving necessary blood, leaving a small window to return to that ideal temperature. Within minutes of a dog’s body temperature reaching 110 degrees Fahrenheit, death occurs.

While heatstroke is a serious condition, you can beat the heat with the knowledge to prevent a dog overheating entirely, recognize the warning signs and act quickly to cool down your pup.


By: Dr. Laci Schaible

Featured Image: Pelle Zoltan/Shutterstock.com

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