June 12, 2019

How to Tell if Your Dog is Overheating

It’s hot out there!

Overheating is one of the biggest dangers for dogs, particularly if you live in a heat-prone area like we do here in Southern California. Gallant works with dog owners all the time who are concerned about overheating. Here are a few things our vets want you to know.

Which Dogs Overheat?

Some dogs are more prone to overheating than others. Brachycephalic dogs – that is, the kind with those adorably-squished noses – are most likely to suffer from heatstroke. These breeds (which include English bulldogs, pugs, Frenchies, and the like) have trouble regulating their internal temperature through breathing alone because of the shape of their nasal respiratory cavities. Other dogs that are susceptible to heatstroke include senior dogs, puppies, and dogs who suffer from chronic health conditions like allergies or asthma. These dogs don’t have the ability to regulate themselves like other dogs do, so always pay special attention when they’re in a hot environment.

What Causes Overheating?

The good news is, overheating is entirely preventable. The condition is caused by high external temperatures and exacerbated by things like high humidity, strenuous exercise, and/or poor air flow. A hot car is an ideal environment for overheating to occur. Understand that there is a difference between overheating and heatstroke. Heatstroke is far more serious and occurs when your dog’s internal temperature crests about 109°. Once heatstroke sets in, your dog’s cells actually begin to die; the results can affect the brain, intestines, kidneys, and more. The after-effects of heatstroke usually last for months and years to come and in many cases, once heatstroke sets in it can be too late to save a dog’s life.

Signs Your Dog is Overheating

There are a few tell-tale signs of overheating in dogs. These can include:

  • Heavy, continuous panting
  • Glazed eyes
  • Weakness and/or collapse
  • Increased pulse
  • Vomiting
  • Dark red tongue or gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Seizures

What should you do if you think your dog is overheating? First, contact your vet then move him to a cooler area as soon as possible. If you’re outside, move him into the shade or even a car with air conditioning. Offer him small amounts of water to drink - too much and he might vomit, exacerbating dehydration. Use a cool towel or water source to wet his back, neck, and underneath his arms. Allow a fan to blow cool air on him if possible. Even if your dog seems to have recovered, check in with your vet after a particularly severe instance of overheating. It’s important to do all that you can to prevent overheating in the first place: walk your dog during the coolest parts of the day, give him a “summer” haircut, and most importantly, never, EVER leave a dog in a car for any length of time.  

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