5 signs your dog is overheating

Do you know how to spot the 5 signs that your dog is dangerously overheating? Our Senior Veterinary Advisor, Robin Hargreaves, explains what to look for and what to do.

Most of us are very familiar with the fact that dogs can die in hot cars. Often, however, overheating, or hyperthermia, happens at home, and can prove fatal for our dogs.
If you think your dog is overheating:
1.    Immediatley remove them from the source of the heat
2.    Reduce their temperature by laying a towel on them and pouring cool (not cold) water over it
3.    Unless there is a rapid return to normal breathing, get to a vet immediately in a well ventilated pre-cooled vehicle. 
 
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.
 
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 very quickly risk a veterinary emergency.
 
Lying in a hot place and over-exercising in high temperatures can also rapidly lead to heatstroke. Don't assume that because your dog is happy to join you on a walk in the heat that they are fine. Heatstroke can develop quickly and if this happens on a walk with no access to fast cooling, you could have a very serious situation on your hands in a very short time.
 
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:
 
1. Become restless and show discomfort
2. Vomit or have diarrhoea
3. Drool excessively
4. Have an increased heart rate
5. 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.
If you have an Agria Pet Insurance policy, you can access the free Pet Health Helpline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The veterinary-trained team will advise on any concerns or queries that you may have over your pet’s health – much like the NHS 111 service for people. Call free on 03333 32 19 47.