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9 Signs of Overheating in Dogs

May 25, 2021 by SPOT Pet Insurance
Two dogs hiking red rocks

Do You Know the Signs of Overheating in Dogs?

The weather is heating up, and not only do you want to go outside, but your canine best friend does too. There are so many fun places for your dog to go – the park, a long walk around the neighborhood, maybe even a swimming spot or camping. And, of course, one of the best parts of summer fun for your dog is being with you.

However, dogs aren’t as efficient as humans when it comes to cooling off, and they can get overheated quickly.

Here are some of the signs of overheating in dogs:

• Heavy, frantic panting
• Diarrhea or vomiting
• Body temperature over 101 (feels warm to the touch)
• Excessive drooling or thick saliva
• Bright red gums and tongue
• Rapid or irregular heart rate
• Seizures or muscle tremors
• Instability and lack of coordination (ataxia)
• Collapse and unconsciousness

Some dogs are even more at risk. These high-risk dogs include dogs with dark hair or fur, obese or elderly dogs, dogs with a history of heatstroke, and large-bodied dogs.
Of course, you know your dog’s typical behavior better than anyone else. At the sign of any of the symptoms listed above or other unordinary behavior, contact your vet and let them guide you on how to proceed.

How to Cool off a Dog

Here are some things you can do when you start to see the signs of overheating in your dog:

1. Provide access to cool water. Give fresh and cool water from a hose, a shallow kiddie pool, a bowl of cool water, or a wet towel on their body.

2. Move them to a cool area. If you don’t have air-conditioning nearby, then see if you can find a fan or a spot in the shade where the ground is cool.

3. Exercise only in the morning or at night. Some breeds will catch the frisbee or the ball over and over, even in dangerous heat. As a responsible pet parent, only encourage play or exercise at safe times of the day.

4. Be aware of hot surfaces. Hot asphalt, sand, sidewalks, and more can be painful to your dog. Put your hand or barefoot on the surface. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pup.

5. Visit the groomer for a summer haircut. If your dog is one of the breeds meant to shed, going to the groomer can help remove much of the shedding hair. Of course, you can also do this on your own with specific shedding tools.

And, of course, never leave your dog unattended in a vehicle.

Should I shave my dog in the summer?

When you look at your dog’s fur, you might start to wonder if you should do something about it to make them more comfortable. After all, you wouldn’t walk around all summer in a fur coat. Before you take matters into your own hands, let’s look at some ways dogs have evolved to stay cool.

First, nature has designed a way of creating a summer wardrobe for your dog.
A double-coated breed has developed an efficient insulating system. The inner layer traps cooler air, so the cool air stays close to their skin when they go outside. Unless you have a specific non-shedding dog, you’ll notice your dog starting to shed more in the spring. The shedding is nature’s way of changing into their summer wardrobe.

Avoid shaving your dog as it will provide the sun direct access to their skin which can cause overheating and sunburn. If you do want to give your dog a “summer cut,” research what is suitable for your dog’s breed or go to an experienced groomer for guidance. While some people may challenge the double-coat insulating theory, you as a pet parent can make your own decision with your vet or another canine professional on how to proceed.

How Do Dogs Sweat?

Yes, dogs do sweat–but not like we do. Believe it or not, their sweat glands are on their feet! So when your dog has sweaty feet, or you notice wet footprints, your dog is cooling off. The reason for the sweat glands on the feet is quite simple – there’s no fur, so it’s a route for evaporation. If the sweat glands were all over your dog’s body, then your dog would have sweaty, wet fur.

Another sign of cooling is panting. Sweating plays a small role in your dog cooling off; panting is the central temperature regulation. Panting allows air to go back and forth over the moist tissue of the lungs, tongue, and nasal passages.

Panting is compromised in some dogs, most notably brachycephalic breeds such as Pugs, Boxers, Bulldogs, Pekinese, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Boston Terriers. The short nose and flat face of these breeds makes panting more inefficient than other breeds, and they are more susceptible to overheating.

The last way dogs expel heat is through vasodilation – expansion of the blood vessels, especially near the ears and face, to cool off the blood before returning to the heart.

Here are some tips from the field:

• “I bought my dog a cooling vest because we are training for a marathon together.”
• “Whenever my dog won’t carry his ball, I know he’s too hot and needs water.”
• “I carry a convenient dog-specific water bottle.”
• “We put an elevated cooling bed outside for our dog.”

Remember always to be equipped for hot weather and carry water for your dog. Plan outside activities at cooler times of the day and take note of any unusual behavior. Of course, having pet insurance can help with an emergency trip if your dog starts to show heat distress. Customize a quote below in minutes to see how SPOT Pet Insurance helps to cover vet costs. And go learn more about emergency room visits here.

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