The dog days of summer represent the most sultry time of the year, when it's time to get out, catch some rays and get your fun on. But heat and your dog can be a dangerous combination. Early detection of overheating is crucial to prevent more serious heat illness.
Without sweat glands, dogs cool down by panting. But when your dog becomes overheated, panting may not be effective. Overheating can cause your dog to pant rapidly and excessively, and drool thick, ropelike saliva. His gums may become very dry and even a bit crispy from dehydration. As the condition progresses, the gums and tongue, and often the delicate skin around the eyes, will turn dark pink or bright red. His skin may very warm to the touch. He may have a worried and anxious look on his face; after all, he is in distress. As the dog becomes hotter, he may become weak and stumble or even collapse. At this point, your dog's life is in jeopardy.
Breed and Age Considerations
Short-nose breeds like pugs, boxers and bulldogs have a more difficult time cooling the air through their nasal cavity and are considered to be inefficient panters. If you own a dog with a compressed face and snub nose -- also known as brachycephaly -- be extra diligent about keeping your dog as cool as possible on hot days. Owners of very young or old dogs, or dogs that are overweight, are also most susceptible to overheating.
Dogs need fresh, clean water at all times to keep cool and comfy in warm weather. As the heat spikes during the day, so does your dog's demand for water. If you must keep your dog outside, provide shelter and shade for both your dog and the water bowl, and secure the bowl to prevent it from getting knocked over. Many breeds love to swim or wade in water; keep a kiddie pool or tub filled with clean water in the dog's play area -- it can help your dog chill out on a toasty day. Exercise your dog in the cool early hours of the day or late at night when temperatures drop. Most importantly, never leave your dog in the car on a warm day. Outside temperatures may be 80 degrees, but the temperature inside the car -- even with the windows cracked -- can reach 100 degrees or more in a short period of time.
If your dog is suffering from overheating, get him out of the sun and into shade or an air-conditioned room immediately. The Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals advises owners to soak towels in cool water and place them over the dog's back, or soak the dog in a tub filled with cool water. Do not immerse your dog in ice water, as this can lead to shock. As soon as the dog begins to cool down, rush him to the vet.
Overheating can quickly turn into heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Symptoms of serious heat-related illness include lethargy, extreme panting, disorientation, profuse salivation or vomiting and unconsciousness. Organs can shut down and blood may fail to clot. See your veterinarian immediately, as this condition is an absolute emergency. Heatstroke can be fatal.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- The Humane Society of the United States: Keep Pets Safe in the Heat
- Mar Vista Vet: Brachycephalic
- ASPCA Complete Dog Care Manual; Bruce Fogel
- Tufts Journal: How Can I Tell if My Dog Is Overheating?
- University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine: Study Looks at Ways to Prevent Heat-Related Illness in Dogs
- Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Tips on Avoiding Heat Stroke and a Trip to the Emergency Room
Elle Smith has been an advertising professional for more than 25 years. Her work for ABC, CBS and Sony Pictures Television has appeared on radio, on air, in print and outdoors. In addition, Smith has more than 20 years experience in marketing, graphic arts, commercial photography and print production, and is a licensed real estate agent with property management certification in California.