When warm weather finally rolls around, we can’t blame you for spending all your daylight hours frolicking around the park with Fido. But even if you’re feeling just fine under the sun, be sure to keep a close eye on your dog. Hot weather can result in an overheated dog, which means your furry companion is having a tough time blowing off extra body steam. Because they have very few sweat glands, dogs pant to release the excess heat and keep cool. But a dog panting is like a blue sky—pretty ordinary, right? Well, the problem is that when severe overheating (or hyperthermia) strikes your dog, body temperature rises above acceptable levels, which can cause brain damage or even death.
When it comes to overheating, not all dogs are created equal. Look to your pooch’s coat and breed for clues on whether she’s more prone to hyperthermia than others. Black or furry dogs build up plenty of body heat. Also, bulldogs and other breeds with “pushed-in” faces sometimes pant so hard that it interferes with their breathing.
It’s up to you to spot the signs of severe overheating: weakness, unresponsiveness, disorientation, and rapid panting. If your pet shows any combination of these symptoms or is unconscious, you need to call the vet ASAP. But there are plenty of things you can do to help your pup cool down in less severe instances, and there are even actions you can take to lessen the effects of severe overheating before you speed off to the animal ER.
One Hot Dog: Cooling Her Off
If your dog is showing signs of severe overheating but is still conscious, hose her off with cold water, then pour some water for her to drink. Placing an ice pack on her head will also help. As soon as you finish supplying this first aid, call the vet. Taking these steps can stop your pet’s temperature from rising, which may help prevent brain damage or even death.
If you don’t want to turn a hose on your dog, immerse her in a cold bath for several seconds (or as long as she’ll stand for it). Or dunk her in a lake, pool, or brook, but make sure to keep her head above water. Then give her water to drink and call the vet.
Dog Overheated … And Out Cold
If your dog is unconscious, you’ll need to use a rectal thermometer to determine whether the unconsciousness is due to hyperthermia. If your dog’s body temperature is 105°F or higher, it likely is. Immerse her in a cool bath, keeping her head above water. Remove her after just one minute, then take her to the nearest emergency animal hospital ASAP. Do not wrap the animal in a towel; that will only trap the heat in.
If your dog is unconscious and hyperthermic but too heavy for you to lift into a tub, hose her off for several seconds before taking her to the animal hospital. If necessary, get help carrying her to the car.
Decode the Dog Panting
If your dog is panting rapidly, she’s too hot and you need to take action fast. Excessive panting produces even more body heat and causes her to salivate, which can lead to a critically dehydrated dog. Move your distressed dog to a cool, quiet spot—under a shady tree or in a room with a fan or air conditioner turned on. Provide plenty of water for her to drink and try to keep the atmosphere calm.
Make Hers on the Rocks
To help your pup cool down, give her a few ice cubes to chew on. The crunchy cubes are fun to eat and provide essential fluids she’ll need to get the cooling process going.