Overheating Dogs and What to Do About It

It’s that time of year again, where the sun is out and the temperature is hot. It’s tempting to spend all your free time outside soaking in that Vitamin D, and of course bringing along your favourite furry friend, but be cautious; warm temperatures can mean overheating and even possible heat stroke for your dog. No fear though! I’ve provided below, a quick guide on everything heat stroke to better prepare you for the coming summer months.


While any dog can get heat stroke, certain risk factors make some dogs more likely to overheat, or overheat faster than others. Breeds with long hair, or thick, heavy fur coats, or breeds with short, flat noses (think pugs or bulldogs for example) are more likely to have trouble regulating heat. Other at-risk dogs include puppies or older dogs, and dogs that are obese. If your dog fits any of these criteria, keep an extra watchful eye on him or her.

Signs and Symptoms

The first signs of heat exhaustion include excessive panting, dry and pale gums, excessive drooling and glazed eyes. Sometimes, your dog will start to vomit or have diarrhea, or bloody stool. This can progress to more serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, seizures, or cardiac arrest.

Actions to Take

At the first signs of heat stroke, it’s important to take action. Start by moving your pup to a cooler place. If possible, inside where there is air conditioning or a fan.

You can use towels soaked in cool water to cool them down. Do NOT put your dog in an ice bath; this will constrict the blood vessels and trap the heat inside the body.

If your dog is conscious, you can try to give it cool water. Do NOT force your dog to drink water, or else they could inhale the water into their lungs. Instead, you can just wet their tongue if they don’t want to drink. Do NOT feed ice cubes, as it could cool down your dog too quickly and cause shock.

Finally, bring your dog to your veterinarian, preferably giving them a call beforehand, so that they can be prepared when you make it in. If your dog has progressed to more serious stages of heat stroke, it is critical that they are seen as soon as possible.


It’s a lot easier to prevent heat stroke from happening, than to treat it after it’s already a problem. Make sure that your dog always has a cool, shady place outside to lie in, as well as a cool source of drinkable water. If your dog is playing or exercising outside, make sure that it gets frequent breaks and proper hydration. On really hot days, strenuous exercise should be avoided altogether.

If possible, take your dog for walks during the cooler parts of the day (this also helps avoid burns to the pads of your dog’s feet due to hot pavement). Finally, don’t leave your pet in your car for any reason, or any amount of time. Factors like being parked in the shade, having the windows rolled down, or just being gone “for a minute,” do NOT matter. Temperatures can still go from comfortable to deadly, in a matter of minutes (and when are people only ever gone for a minute anyway?).

As you can see, if you take the proper preventative measures and make sure always to keep an eye on your pooch, as well as act quickly if you do notice anything, summer should be fun and fulfilling for both you and your best four-legged friend.

Written by Airdrie Animal Health Centre

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