Many dog families don’t realize that their furry friend is not well-equipped to cool herself down, in fact, in the US, “how to cool down a dog that is overheating” is in the top 5 dog-related queries on google every summer. When the temperature begins to rise, dog parents need to make sure that they are watching for the signs (Schweig, 2015) of an overheated loved one.
The first thing that needs to be determined is if your dog is simply overheating or if she is suffering from heat stroke. Vets recommend that dog families carry a rectal thermometer (How to Prevent Overheating in Dogs, n.d.) for emergencies and that they know how to use it. In hot weather, this is particularly crucial. A temperature of 109 degrees or above is a true emergency; your dog needs a vet’s care immediately. At 109 degrees a dog is already experiencing cell death and there is absolutely no room for compromise. With a temperature of 104 degrees or below or if you are more than a few minutes from a veterinary clinic you can begin to cool down an overheating dog with these steps:
Move her to a cool place, it’s best if you can bring her into an air-conditioned building or car, at a minimum get her out of any direct sunlight immediately. If you have the means you can semi- immerse her in cool (not cold) water. Never leave her in a hot car!
Use cool (not cold) water to wet her head, ear flaps, and paw pads.
Apply cool, wet cloth, such as towels or clothing, to the area around her neck, her armpits and the areas between her hind legs.
Give her cool drinking water; if she can drink it herself allow her slow small sips at the beginning. If she refuses to drink you can try wetting her tongue. Never attempt to force her to drink, there’s a good chance that the water will end up in her lungs. Also, resist the temptation to give her ice, this can cool down her body too quickly and add to her shock.
Take her to the vet, call ahead if possible so that the clinic has time to prepare, she’ll most likely need IV fluids and other treatments that only a clinic can provide.
Bringing The Heat created by FIGO Pet Insurance.
101.5 degrees is the normal body temperature for a healthy dog. Most dogs are actually built for insulation (Animal Survival in Extreme Temperatures, n.d.), much like cold-weather birds or northern mammals. It’s probably the reason for the expression “a three dog night”. Anyone that has had the pleasure of a warm furry body pressed against them in the dead of winter can attest to their pup’s insulating ability. Unfortunately, the flip side of this is that dogs just don’t have a good capacity to cool themselves.
While humans have exposed skin and an abundance of sweat glands, dogs have to make do with panting. Much like sweating panting cools through the evaporation of water. In dogs and other mammals, water is evaporated through internal body surfaces like the mouth, nasal passages, and lungs. Most birds pant too, in birds that water evaporates from their air sacs. Naturally, with this loss of liquid, the need for replenishment is crucial and one of the key ways to cool down an overheating dog is to make sure that they have continued access to cool, fresh water.
While an overheating dog is a scary thing, it’s relatively easy to prevent. Just keep in mind that your dog is blissfully unaware of her own susceptibility to heat stroke. When you decide on a warm weather outing be sure to pack a bag with her water dish and a bottle of cool water, then watch her for excessive panting and be sure that she isn’t spending too much time in the direct sun.
Animal Survival in Extreme Temperatures. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/resources/highschool/chemmatters/past-issues/archive-2013-2014/animal-survival-in-extreme-temperatures.html
How to Prevent Overheating in Dogs | Heatstroke. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2013/06/24/overheating.aspx
Schweig, S. V. (2015, June 29). How To Tell If Your Dog Is Overheating. Retrieved from https://www.thedodo.com/how-to-tell-dog-overheating-1224088290.html