Most people know to look out for excessive panting as a warning of heatstroke, but did you know there are many other signs of overheating in dogs you should look out for?
Unlike humans, dogs can’t release heat through sweat glands on their body, so they are much more prone to overheating.
(Actually, they have a few sweat glands in their paws which is why your dog’s pads can sometimes smell like a teenager’s trainers.)
So it’s really important to keep an eye on them in hot weather and spot signs of overheating as soon as possible.
There have been many publicised cases of dogs tragically overheating and dying in locked cars.
But, in fact, in really hot weather, even the back yard or garden can be dangerous for your pooch, particularly if they’re older, overweight, or a brachycephalic breed.
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Sign #1 - Rapid Panting
This is the most obvious sign of overheating in dogs which all dog owners should be aware of and react to swiftly.
If your dog is panting heavily on a hot day, then make sure they have access to fresh, clean water at the earliest opportunity.
Sign #2 - Lethargy
If it’s a warm day and your dog is napping more than normal, or isn’t pestering you for their regular walk, they could be starting to overheat.
Get them to a cool place as soon as you can and watch carefully to see if they perk up a bit.
Sign #3 - Excessive thirst
If you notice your dog is drinking a lot more than usual on a hot day – take care, it could be a sign of overheating.
It is actually dangerous for a dehydrated dog to drink too much water too rapidly.
It can put an incredible strain on their system and make the situation worse.
If you suspect your dog is dehydrated, then feed them a spoonful of water every ten minutes for 2-3 hours.
(Use a teaspoon for a small dog and 1-2 tablespoons for a large dog.)
Be aware that puppies and lactating dogs generally need to drink more, so keep a particular eye on them in hot weather.
Sign #4 - Glassy eyes
If your dogs eyes are looking glazed or sunken, this is a sure sign something is wrong.
A healthy dog’s eyes should be bright and shiny so if you notice a change and the weather is warm, be alert – they could be suffering from dehydration.
Sign #5 - Dry mouth, gums, and nose
Without sufficient moisture in their body, your dog’s mouth, gums, and nose will get very dry.
You may even observe this as ‘scabbing’ on the nose.
Carry out this simple test (called a ‘capillary refill time’ test).
Press your finger against your dog’s gums until they turn white, then remove it.
If the gums don’t regain colour straight away, this could be a sign of dehydration.
Sign #6 - Dark red tongue
A temporary change in colour of the tongue and gums to dark red or bright red can be a sign of overheating in dogs.
If your dog’s tongue has been gradually changing colour over a few weeks, then it could be a symptom of an underlying illness, so best to get them checked by a vet.
Sign #7 - Drooling
It may seem counter-intuitive, but excess drool is a sign of dehydration, especially if the saliva is thick and rope-like.
Sign #8 - Shivering
Again, it seems counter-intuitive, but if your dog is shaking or shivering in hot weather, the likelihood is that they are dehydrated.
This is because it’s hard to keep body temperature regulated when there isn’t enough fluid in the body.
This can lead to hyperthermia – the medical term for overheating in dogs – which induces shivering.
Sign #9 - High body temperature
Fairly obviously, if your dog is overheated, their body temperature will increase.
It is worth knowing what your dog’s normal body temperature is, as a comparison, so take a reading when they are well.
A dog with a temperature over 103 degrees should always go to the vet.
Anything over 106 degrees should be treated as serious as it could lead to organ failure.
Sign #10 - Reduced skin elasticity
Your dog’s skin may become slack if there is not enough water in their system.
To check your dog’s skin for dehydration, try this simple test.
Pinch a small amount of skin on their back or top of the head (use your thumb and forefinger).
If your pooch is well hydrated, the skin will spring back when you let go.
However, if they are dehydrated, it will move back into place more slowly, because of the lack of moisture.
In really severe cases of dehydration, the skin doesn’t spring back at all, but hopefully you should have spotted the warning signs long before Fido gets to that point.
Sign #11 - Loss of appetite
One clear sign of over-heating in dogs is loss of appetite or refusal to eat.
If your dog is a food-oriented breed – such as a labrador retriever or a beagle – you’ll already know this is always cause for concern.
But if your dog is a fussy eater or has a light appetite, it may be harder to spot, so keep a close eye on the contents of the food bowl in hot weather.
Sign #12 - Disorientation
If your dog is showing clear signs of disorientation, take them to the vet immediately.
Whilst this is a symptom of dehydration in dogs, it can also indicate other diseases so should be checked out quickly.
Common signs of disorientation in dogs are:
- Walking jerkily or unsteadily
- Not responding when called
- Reluctance to stand
- Falling over
- Walking in circles
- Wandering off
Sign #13 - Vomiting
If your dog is disoriented, it’s very likely they will vomit.
Essentially they will be suffering severe dizziness and all the unpleasant motion sickness which comes with it.
Be careful also when giving water to a dehydrated dog.
Too much too quickly could cause them to vomit, which actually makes the dehydration worse.
Sign #14 - Diarrhoea / Bloody Diarrhoea
Diarrhoea in dogs is always a sign that something is wrong.
If you have observed other symptoms of dehydration, then you need to take action.
Move your dog into the coolest place possible immediately.
Get water onto your dog’s skin – a child’s paddling pool is ideal, or just gently pour water over them from a bucket or hose.
(Make sure it’s not too cold or you could shock your pooch.)
Make sure they have water to sip, and control how much they can take in one go, so they don’t vomit.
If you see blood in your dog’s diarrhoea, then get them to the vet immediately.
Sign #15 - Fast Pulse
If your dog is dehydrated, its heart will have to work harder to pump blood.
That means they will have an elevated pulse rate.
A dog’s normal heart rate depends on its size.
Small dogs and puppies’ hearts typically work at 120 – 160 beats per minute.
Larger dogs (over 30 pounds) tend to have heart rates of 60 – 120 beats per minute.
As a rule of thumb, the larger the dog, the slower their normal heart rate will be.
If you suspect your dog is dehydrated, then taking their pulse would be a good way to check their condition.
We recommend taking your dog’s pulse on a normal day when they are relaxed and happy so you have something to compare with.
Sign #16 - Weakness
If your dog is unable to stand and generally seems weak on a hot day, then this could well be due to dehydration.
As above, if they have other symptoms of overheating alongside, take action straight away.
Sign #17 - Seizures
It’s one of a dog owner’s worse nightmares – seeing your beloved canine companion having a seizure or fit.
Hopefully if your dog has overheated, you will have spotted the signs long before this point.
But just in case, these are the signs of fitting in dogs to look out for:
- developing a facial tic
- unusual rhythmic barking
- making jerking movements
- going stiff
- twitching uncontrollably
- making chewing movements
- foaming at the mouth
- making paddling movements with their feet
- losing control of their bladder or bowel
If you suspect your dog is having a seizure, try not to panic.
Most seizures end on their own within 5 minutes.
However, you should take action both during the seizure and afterwards.
The video below provides a fantastic guide on what to do and expect.
Sign #18 - Unconsciousness
If your dog becomes unconscious then it is a medical emergency and you must call a vet.
Meanwhile, you should undertake some first aid.
- Remove your dog’s collar (gently)
- Check for breathing and a heartbeat
- Put a folded towel under their neck to slightly elevate their head
- Move your dog as little as possible
- If you see signs of vomiting, make sure your dog’s head and neck are pointing towards the floor to avoid choking
- If your dog has stopped breathing, perform CPR if you are confident to do so.
The two videos below give you all the information you need to put a dog in the recovery position and perform CPR.