Can dogs overheat? Yes, they can. Brachycephalic breeds such as the pug, bulldog, and Boston terrier, in particular, tend to overheat easily from exercise or running or playing in warm weather. Summer months are, as one would expect, the most notorious for causing heatstroke in dogs. Here we explore more the factors that can put your dog at higher risk of overheating and share with you tips on prevention and treatment.
Dog Overheating Risk Factors
Dogs keep themselves cool by panting. This allows the moisture to evaporate from their tongue to take off the heat from the air they breathe and thus regulate their body temperature. Unlike us, however, dogs are not as efficient at releasing heat from their body. This makes them susceptible to overheating or heat stroke during hot days, especially in summer. Some dogs are more susceptible to overheating than others due to the following factors:
- Breeds: According to PetMD, dog overheating can affect any breed of dog but it tends to occur more commonly in brachycephalic breeds. Including pug, bulldog, and Boston terrier, these breeds have been notable for short noses and broad, a flat face which makes them less efficient in cooling themselves through panting. They also have compressed upper respiratory system as Dr. Louise Murray, VP of ASPCA Animal Hospital says.
- Length of hair: Dogs with long, dense, overcoats such as Pekinese also tend to overheat easily.
- Age: Dog overheating has a knack for hitting older dogs but young dogs are not safe either. Puppies also overheat easily from exercise or running, playing, or hiking in hot weather.
- Weight: For an obvious reason, heat retention by excess fat, overweight dogs are also more susceptible to heatstroke than their lean, regular-weighted counterparts.
- Illness: According to Mercola.com, ill dogs are also likely to get overheated faster than healthy dogs. Dogs suffering from conditions such as arthritis, endocrine disorders, and heart disease are at an especially greater risk.
- Neglect: Dogs left outdoors in the heat without access to shade and dogs left unattended in parked cars on a hot day are also primary targets for heatstroke.
- Overexertion: Whether from exercise, play, or work, pushing your dog too much can cause overheating. Hunting dogs can, in particular, suffer from heat exhaustion more rapidly due to a combination of overexertion and high temperatures if taken hunting during hot weather.
Dog Overheating Symptoms
Understanding the early warning signs and symptoms of overheating in dogs can make all the difference between losing and saving the life of your dog. In no time at all, an overheated dog can hamper brain, heart, nervous system or liver function. Overheated dog symptoms include:
- Excessive, heavy panting
- Increased heart pulse
- Dry, pale gums
- Glassy-looking eyes
- Disorientation: Severe dog overheating can also manifest in confusion.
- Weakness; the dog may even collapse.
- Rectal bleeding
- Bright red tongue
- If your dog falls on its side take it is an emergency. Cool it down as explained below and then take it to the vet.
What to Do When Your Dog Is Overheated
My dog is overheated, what should I do? Below is a guideline on how to cool down a dog that is overheating or overheated.
- Get your dog out of the heat: The first step in treating overheating in dogs is of course to stop further temperature rises. Running a fan can also help.
- Give your dog cool, fresh water immediately: Drinking water helps with dog overheating recovery.
- Use cool water to lower your dog’s temperature: Pour or sprinkle cool water on your dog’s belly and groin area, or place it a bathtub full of water. You should however NEVER use ice or cold water for the purpose. It can constrict the blood vessels in the skin and make the condition worse. Placing towels soaked in cool water on the back, neck, under the forelimbs, and in the groin region can also help to stop dog overheating.
- Massage your pooch’s legs: According to the PetMD, a leg massage helps to boost blood circulation and thus put the dog at lower risk of shock.
- Take your dog to the vet: After using the home remedies mentioned above to control dog overheating, you may still want to take your dog to the veterinarian. The dog may be dehydrated or have other complications that warrant treatment. As PetMD says, you should take your dog to the emergency room if she collapses.
Dog Overheating Prevention Tips
Prevention is better than cure, goes an old cliché. The following tips will help you to keep your dog from overheating:
- Never leave your dog alone in a parked car during hot weather no matter how short the time you will be away. It doesn’t also matter the car is in the shade or the windows are fully open; the temperatures inside a parked car shoots up pretty quickly. In 80 degrees weather, for example, the temperature inside a car can reach 110 degrees in just 15 minutes.
- Provide outside dogs with access to shade: Having a way to avoid excess heat from direct sunlight is the surest way to prevent dog overheating.
- Provide your dog plenty of fresh drinking water to cool down during warm weather. This is especially true during the summer months.
- Avoid overexerting your canine friend. Avoid exercising your dog or walking it around in very hot weather. If going for a jog during such times, leave your pooch behind. As for exercising your dog, do it in cool hours of the day. This is especially critical for dog breeds prone to overheating.
- Protect vulnerable dogs from heat: These includes dogs with heart disease and other heatstroke predisposing conditions, older dogs, and obese dogs. As Drs. Foster & Smith says, even normal activity for these overheating candidates can take a toll on them. So, you better keep them in the shade during warm weather.
- Avoid muzzling your pet friend.
- Avoid walking in areas that augment heat in hot weather. Concreted or asphalt paved paths can get pretty hot in hot weather and so can the beach. Such areas reflect the heat resulting in rapid temperature hikes.
- Spray your dog with cool water regularly or take her for a swim on very hot days. This will help to cool your canine off and regulate the body temperature.
We all want to enjoy a nice walk, play, or jog with our dog while at the same time enjoying the uplifting warmth of the summer sunshine. Dog overheating can get in the way of that. With good preparation however you can avoid this common dog problem and have a great summer.