How Do I Know My Dog Is Overheated?
5 min read
For humans, it’s easy to understand when it’s too hot and do something about it — drink some cool water or just turn on the AC. When it comes to dogs, you are the one who needs to be in control and notice that something is going wrong on time. Overheating, also known as hyperthermia or heat exhaustion, is a serious condition that can lead to organ failure and even death if not detected and treated properly. So, here is how you diagnose, treat, and prevent it.
Overheating — The Symptoms
Overheating can be harmful for the dog's health.
Below, you’ll find the list of the most common symptoms of heat exhaustion in dogs. Some of them might also be signs of other diseases but if there is a combination of them and it’s hot outside — this is probably it.
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If you hear your dog constantly panting even though there was no physical exercise before, and his breathing is heavier and faster than normal, it might be a sign of overheating. Dogs use panting to cool down and this is why flat-faced dogs like pugs have more chances to get overheated — their panting is not that efficient.
Vomiting and/or Diarrhea
Vomiting and/or diarrhea can be symptoms of pretty much anything including the fact that your dog just picked up bits and pieces of someone’s burrito during your last walk. But if it’s combined with other symptoms and especially if you notice blood in your dog’s stool, it can be a red flag and a sign to call a vet immediately.
High Body Temperature
It’s good if you have a contact-free or at least a rectal thermometer to take your dog’s temperature if you suspect he might be having a fever (normal body temperature for dogs shouldn’t be over 103 degrees Fahrenheit/39 degrees Celsius. If you don’t have a thermometer or you are on the way, try touching the dog’s nose — it should be cold and wet. The dry and hot nose might be a sign of fever and of overheating as well.
This is the symptom you can check if you have a heart rate monitor or know what your dog’s usual heart rate is as it significantly varies depending on the size of the dog. To take the pulse, try placing your hand on the dog’s chest, right near the elbow joint. If you feel heart beating much faster than normal, it’s better to make sure your dog is not experiencing hyperthermia.
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Dark-red or Blue Gums
Dogs’ gums work like litmus paper for owners who know what to look for as they change color depending on the dog’s health conditions. If you see your pet’s gums turning dark-red, blue-ish, or straight blue — it’s a definite sign of heat exhaustion.
Some dog breeds can’t help leaving their saliva everywhere they go and you can’t do anything about it. But if it’s not the case for your pet and you suddenly noticed him drooling excessively, you might want to check for other symptoms of overheating and take measures to cool him down.
It’s very important that you keep an eye on your pet’s activity level. If you see that your, usually active, dog suddenly becomes weak and lazy, has trouble walking, or can’t help sleeping, there is a chance that he might be overheated or something else is off.
Look your dog in the eyes. Do they look normal? Are they bright and clean as they always are? Among other matters, glazed or blurry eyes are a symptom of dehydration and hypothermia.
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Muscle Tremors or Seizures
If your dog is shaking even though it’s hot outside or you notice sudden muscle tremors or even seizures, immediately bring him to the cooler place and contact your vet as this might be a symptom of serious heat exhaustion.
How to Prevent Overheating
Your dog should have free access to water at any time of the day or night.
Overheating can be successfully treated if noticed early but it’s always better to prevent a condition than to treat it afterward. To keep things cool, just follow these simple recommendations:
- Keep your pet hydrated. There should always be enough clean water for a dog to drink at any time. Get a travel bottle to take with you for a walk and regularly refresh his water bowl when you’re at home.
- Never leave a dog in the car. Some people believe that it’s okay to leave their dog in a car on a sunny day while they go shopping but in fact, it can quickly lead to overheating and death as your car will turn into a sweatbox within minutes. If this is an emergency and there is no way you can take your pet with you, at least make sure the windows are cracked and you park in the shade. And be back soon.
- Avoid going out during peak temperature hours. It’s not healthy either for a dog and for you. In summer, try to walk your dog in the morning and evening, avoiding those hours when the heat becomes unbearable — besides general overheating, a dog can also get his paws burned from hot pavement.
What to Do if your Dog is Overheated
If you don't have anything to cool your dog, just put it in the water.
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If none of these helped and you think your dog got overheated, it’s important to start acting immediately. The sooner you help, the more chances it will go away with no significant complications. So, here’s what you need to do if things got too hot:
- Bring your dog to the cooler place, preferably indoors with the AC on.
- Wet the dog with some cool or lukewarm water to lower the body temperature. Don’t use cold water though — it’s better if the temperature goes down gradually. Aim the water at the dog’s paws and ears to speed up the process.
- Get your dog some lukewarm water to drink.
- Check the dog’s temperature every few minutes to make sure it’s going down.
- Contact your vet. It might be needed to run some tests to make sure everything is fine.
If these steps don’t seem to help or if your dog is unconscious, get him to the veterinarian hospital as soon as you can as this might be very dangerous. Remember: summer is fun but overheating is not, so some extra-attention both for humans and animals might be needed.
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