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Preventing and treating overheating in dogs

Agria's Senior Veterinary Advisor, Robin Hargreaves, shares advice on how to prevent overheating and what to do if your dog is affected.

First things first 


  • 1

    Remove them from the source of the heat

  • 2

    Reduce their temperature

    You can do this by by laying a towel on them and pouring cool (not cold) water over it

  • 3

    Get them to the vet immediately

    Travel in a cool car

Most of us are very familiar with the fact that dogs can die in hot cars. Often, however, overheating, or hyperthermia, happens in more day-to-day situations, those we may not think about so much, but can prove fatal for our dogs.

High-risk dogs

Dogs with poor circulation and respiratory function, or that are overweight, are at a higher risk from heat.
Older dogs will often fall into this category, along with dogs with short faces and/ or small nostrils – the brachycephalic breeds such as French Bulldogs and Pugs.
As these dogs’ bodies are less able to cope with extremes of temperature, and so are already closer to the crisis point for overheating, it’s crucial to be aware of seemingly harmless situations that could quickly cause them to overheat. Classic examples are sitting by a sunny window, in a warm conservatory, and travelling in a warm car.

Overheating can happen faster than you think

Putting a dog in a hot car to set off for a journey, even if you leave immediately, is dangerous. Higher-risk dogs with small nostrils, or that are overweight, have circulatory problems, are elderly, or are vulnerable in any other way, can reach the point of heatstroke before your car has cooled down.
So, on very hot days, make sure your car is cool before you put the dog in, or you risk, very quickly, being in a veterinary emergency.
Lying in a hot place and over-exercising in high temperatures can also rapidly lead to heatstroke. 

How to tell if your dog is overheating

Any excessive panting is your first warning sign that your dog is overheating. So, if you see this, don’t wait for any more symptoms – get them cooled down immediately.
The quickest and simplest way to do this is to remove them instantly from the source of the heat and into a cool environment. As dogs are unable to cool down by sweating, we can create the effects of sweating for them simply using a tea towel or towel.
Lay the towel over the dog’s body and pour cool (not cold) water over it, allowing the heat from the dog to evaporate the water, which will reduce their temperature. A fan can also be very helpful to speed up the process.

Life-threatening warning signs

Once overheating has developed, your dog may:

  • Become restless and show discomfort
  • Vomit or have diarrhoea
  • Drool excessively
  • Have an increased heart rate
  • Lose coordination, have seizures or muscle tremors

These symptoms represent a life-threatening veterinary emergency, so follow the cooling steps above while getting them into a cool car and to the vet immediately. Dogs that are seriously overheating may need oxygen, fluids or other treatment and it is vital that they get the care that they need urgently.

About the Author

Senior Veterinary Advisor at Agria Pet Insurance. In addition to his extensive clinical and industry experience, Robin is passionate about animal welfare and the proven social benefits of pet ownership. He is also a representative of Mind Matters, a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons initiative developed to improve the mental health and wellbeing of those working in the veterinary sector.

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