Dog Overheating: A Veterinarian’s life saving tips and what to do

Cool down

With our current heat index well into the hundreds and BGE Peak Rewards customers reportedly left without A/C for hours on end, the topic on everyone’s mind is: how to keep cool?  Some of the affected homes have temperatures peaking into the 90’s and these homes need not forget the danger that this heat wave poses to their pets.

This is critical information that ALL dog owners need to know, kindly given to us by Dr. Weisberg, DVM from the Emergency Animal Hospital of Ellicott City (410-750-1177) in Howard County, Maryland.

Early signs of overheating:

  1. Panting, while not always caused by overheating, if you think your dog may be panting due to heat, immediately start taking steps to cool him down.
  2. Abundance of drooling.
  3. Unstable on feet, collapse.
  4. Gum Color can turn blueish purple, bright red or pale from lack of oxygen.
  5. For more signs click here.

Canine Temperature, consequences and susceptible breeds:

Dr. Weisberg strongly suggests that all dog owners keep a digital thermometer for their dog.  His normal canine temperature guidelines are between 101 and 102.5.  Anything above 105 degrees is a clear indication that something is very wrong and that the dog needs medical attention.

A dog with a temperature of over 108/109 degrees is at high risk of organ damage.  High body temperatures can cause brain swelling, destruction of the lining of the intestine, kidney failure etc. and these conditions are not immediately obvious.  After being cooled down, dogs with serious heat damage can often times walk into the Vet’s office as if everything is fine.  It can take a couple of hours for the consequences of these conditions to become apparent and by then, it could be too late.

Some dogs are more prone to heat related illness.  It may seem obvious that long haired breeds are more susceptible but did you know that breeds with flat faces are also at high risk?  Some examples of these breeds are: Bull dogs, Pugs, Pekingese, Boston Terriers.  The facial structure of these dogs inhibits their ability to pant effectively; therefore, they are incapable of taking in as much air as other breeds.  Consequently, these breeds should never be allowed to overheat.

What to do if your dog overheats:

If your dog’s temperature is 105 degrees or more, take immediate action.  ALWAYS COOL THE DOG OFF AT HOME BEFORE TRAVELING TO THE VET’S OFFICE.

  1. Use tap water (luke warm, not hot or ice cold) to douse the dog.  Water that is too cold constricts blood vessels and decreases the vessels ability to effectively transport sufficient amounts of blood back to the body; therefore taking longer to cool the dog off.
  2. While dousing the dog with water, set a fan to blow on the dog.
  3. Move the dog to shade or A/C.
  4. DO NOT make the dog drink water.  Your dog may be too focused on breathing to drink.  Allow him to drink when he is ready.
  5. Continue all cool down attempts until the panting stops.  Stop cooling once the dog’s temperature gets to 103; cooling any further could lead to hypothermia.
  6. Take your dog to the vet once he is cooled and at a temperature of 103.

Once a dog is cooled down, a Veterinarian will not be able to immediately gauge how much damage was done.  This is why it is so critical that dog owners take the dog’s temperature at home; this equips the Veterinarian with the information necessary to help save the dog’s life.  Dogs that suffered from body temperatures in access of 108/109 should be checked out and hospitalized for observation.

Dr. Weisberg expressed how sad it is to see an otherwise healthy dog, become ill and/or die from overheating.  Help spread this vital information; you could help save a canine life.

Did you know that in heat like this, a car’s temperature can jump up 50 degrees in just 15 minutes?


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