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How to Know if Your Dog is Overheated

dachshund dog panting outside

Know how to prevent and identify heat stress before your dog gets too hot under the collar

Nothing quite compares to a beautiful summer day, spending some quality time having fun in the sun with your best pal. However, just like you, your canine companion can get a little too much sunshine and end up overheated if you’re not careful. While it’s definitely a great experience to enjoy a variety of summer activities with your pup, it’s also important to remember that your faithful friend feels the heat too. Therefore, make sure to pay attention to your pup when you’re out and about in the sunshine.

What Happens When a Dog Is Overheated?

Imagine for a moment that you’re at the park with your puppy pal; one moment your pooch is happily chasing a ball and frolicking in the grass, and the next he’s panting and wandering listlessly as if he’s not quite sure where he is. What would your first thought be at this moment? Would you simply think your dog is getting tired, or would you consider that something more serious might be happening? If you’re not sure, remember to err on the side of caution, because doing nothing could mean the difference between a minor issue and a fatal condition.

When your dog becomes overheated, it can be due to several different factors, but the outcome is the same; your dog experiences an elevated body temperature. Normally, your dog’s average temperature should be roughly 101° F, but when your pup’s temperature is greater than 103.5° F, then he is officially suffering from hyperthermia.

brown dog outside panting

Overheated and Dehydrated Are Different Issues

It’s important to not confuse your dog being overheated with dehydration. It is true that overheating can result in dehydration, and being dehydrated can most certainly contribute to your dog becoming overheated; however, the two conditions are not one and the same. Your dog can become dehydrated no matter what his body temperature is; it simply means he is not getting enough fluids and therefore, losing too much fluid and electrolytes. 

The reason it is important to not consider these two conditions as the same things is that if you think your dog is dehydrated, he will need different treatment than if he is overheated. Depending on the severity of his dehydration, your dog may even need emergency medical care. Likewise, if your pup is overheated, giving him more fluids is not enough to resolve the situation because there are different elements at play that need to be addressed, most notably reducing your dog’s body temperature. If not handled quickly and properly, becoming overheated can lead to more serious conditions like heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and worse.

How Does a Dog Get Overheated?

The problem with something like hyperthermia, which is basically the opposite of hypothermia, is that it has a tendency to sneak up on you (and your pup). First, when your dog is overheated, it isn’t the same thing as a fever. Fever is normally caused by things that are happening on the inside of your pup’s body, while hyperthermia is caused by extrinsic, or outside, factors. Since heat stress is caused by outside factors, that means it is preventable, which means your pup’s safety is in your hands. 

Sometimes, your dog can become overheated so fast that the situation can become critical in mere seconds if left unaddressed. This is why it is so crucial to take the necessary precautions, like keeping your pooch hydrated and taking breaks now and then, to prevent your dog from getting overheated in the first place. 

While there are several issues that can certainly make a dog more susceptible to heat exhaustion, like breathing problems, thick coats, or obesity, the main cause of any heat-related condition is too much time in the heat, as well as over-exertion in high temperatures or high humidity. Other outside factors can also contribute to the severity of your dog’s heat stress, as well as how fast it escalates. 

For example, if it’s hot and your dog is not getting enough to drink while he is engaging in various activities or not given adequate breaks in the shade, then this can definitely cause him to overheat more quickly. Your dog’s breed can also play a role in how likely he is to overheat; for example, many very large dog breeds don’t mesh too well with hot temperatures, while breeds that have short snouts and flat faces can have breathing issues that make hot weather hard to handle. 

puppy smiling and panting outside

Five Ways To Prevent Heat Stress

There are a few key points to keep in mind so you can prevent your dog from becoming overheated. Although nothing is a guarantee, putting the following steps into practice can help increase the likelihood that your dog will remain safe and healthy:

  • Stay Hydrated -- Obviously, drinking water is a top priority.  Ensure that your dog is getting enough water by letting him drink from a bowl that lets him get more water in his mouth than on the floor. There are also special dishes, like the Neater Feeder Polar Bowl, that are designed to keep the water nice and cold. If your pup is a messy drinker, it’s definitely worth it to take a moment and choose the best water bowl for your dog.

  • Made in the Shade -- Ensure that your dog has an area outside where he can be out of the sun now and then and stay cool. Some ideas for nice, shady spots are inside a ventilated dog house, beneath a covered patio, or under a nice big tree. 

  • Bring It Inside -- Your dog may absolutely adore being outside, but that doesn’t mean he should be out there all day long, especially in extreme temperatures. Keep your dog inside during the hottest parts of the day, and if it’s super hot, let him play inside. 

  • Monitor Your Dog -- This step is the most important; you need to watch your dog so that you can quickly pick up on any warning signs of overheating. The faster you respond to a situation, the more likely you are to keep things from getting out of hand.

  • Be Smart -- Your dog will gladly play whenever he gets the chance, he isn’t known for his decision-making skills. You, on the other hand, should be ready to make smart choices. If it is really hot, stay inside. Don’t leave your dog in a hot car. If the power in your house goes out, make arrangements for your dog to stay cool. 
small dog outside panting

10 Signs Your Dog Might Be Overheated

Sometimes, even when you’re super vigilant, things happen. When it comes to wondering if your dog overheated, it’s better to act as if he had than to wait and see. The sooner you can intervene the better, so knowing the signs of heat stress is critical. If you notice any of the following factors, then it’s best to assume your dog could be overheated:

  • Your dog is panting very heavily
  • Your dog is drooling excessively
  • Your dog seems listless like he isn’t focusing on anything
  • Your dog seems anxious or confused
  • Your dog’s gums are bright red or purple, or his gums are dry and very pale
  • Your dog is exhausted
  • Your dog has diarrhea or vomits
  • Your dog collapses
  • Your dog has an erratic pulse
  • Your dog is dehydrated

What To Do If Your Pup Is Overheated

So what do you do if your furry friend is panting and lethargic, and something just doesn’t seem right? First things first, you act fast.  If you suspect your dog is getting overheated, bring him inside or into the shade and provide him with some cool, freshwater. 

If you are unsure, take your pup’s temperature with a rectal thermometer (make sure to lubricate the tip); yes, it may not be the most pleasant thing for you or your pup, but better safe than sorry. Knowing your pup’s temperature is also super helpful if you need to call your vet so you can provide your vet with accurate information. 

If you caught on a bit too late to your pal’s warning signs, then a trip to the vet is a must. However, you need to do your part to try and bring your pup’s temperature down as soon as possible. Therefore, move your pup into a cool area, provide him with some cool drinking water, and help reduce his temp by placing some cool towels on his neck, under his arms, and between his legs. 

Don’t use ice-cold water, either, ice-cold water on your pup or in his drinking water can decrease his temperature too quickly and restrict his blood vessels which would actually trap heat in your pup’s body. Most importantly, call your veterinarian or an animal emergency hospital and let them know your situation and that you are on the way so a professional can see your dog immediately.

brown dog outside panting

Can Dogs Only Get Overheated from the Sun?

Although most cases of overheating may be triggered by too much time in the sun, don’t assume that if there’s no sun then there’s no chance for overheating. Your pup can also suffer from heat stress and possibly life-threatening complications from an overly hot environment, such as a hot car or even in a home with no ventilation or air conditioning when outside temps are on the rise. Your dog is not the best judge of temperature, he’ll continue to play and run as long as he can when he wants to, so it’s up to you to keep an eye on him and know how to keep him safe. 

Your dog comes with a whole checklist of things that you need to get and do to properly care for him; you need to feed him, see that he gets his vaccinations, train him, play with him, in addition to a bunch of other responsibilities.  Your top priority as a dog owner is to be there for your pup and do for him what he can’t do for himself; which includes monitoring his behavior to make sure he’s not behaving unusually. When your dog acts differently from his norm, this is a signal that something is amiss, and you need to investigate pronto so you can give your dog the help that he needs. 

One of the things you can do to make sure you’re on top of things is to learn all that you can about your pooch by reading the rest of our blogs. Doing your part to educate yourself about what is best for your furry pal is a great way to show your faithful canine how much you love him!

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