How to Tell if a Dog is Overheated: 15 Tips to Cool Your Dog Down

In spring or summer, heat stroke quickly happens. Very sudden onset, it can be fatal to your dog. How to tell if a dog is overheated? How to avoid it? And how to cool down a dog that is overheating? All the answers are here.

how to tell if a dog is overheated

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What is Heat Stroke?

Heat stroke is an increase in body temperature, called hyperthermia.


The normal body temperature of a dog is 38.5°C. In the event of heat stroke, the body temperature can rise above 39.5°C. Above 40.5°C, the dog must be taken to the nearest veterinarian without delay.

Heatstroke can occur following violent muscular effort, during uncontrolled and prolonged seizures, or when the ambient temperature is high. Many heat strokes occur in the car when the dog is left locked up in the sun or even during trips with the windows open!

Never leave your dog locked in the car!

A dog locked in a car, even with the windows half open, can die in less than 30 minutes, as soon as the outside temperature reaches 20 ° C. In the passenger compartment, behind the windows, the temperature can very quickly reach 70 ° C to 80 ° C. A real torture!

Heatstroke in dogs is an absolute emergency, just like a torsion of the stomach or a serious injury which must be taken care of as quickly as possible by a veterinarian.

Which Dogs Are Most Sensitive to Heat?

In fact, all dogs without exception are sensitive to heat, for a reason that has to do with their physiology.

Obviously, they have thick fur that keeps them warm in all circumstances, but above all, they have very few sweat glands. The only ones they have cover a very small body surface between their pads (which also explains why they can leave paw prints when they are stressed or when they are hot…).

As a result, they sweat very little and are unable to regulate their body temperature through the sweating mechanism, which is by far the most effective in cooling the body.

Their body nevertheless tries to regulate its internal temperature by using other mechanisms such as:

  • vasodilatation, that is to say, an increase in the diameter of blood vessels located at the body surface in order to increase the surface in contact with air to dissipate a maximum of heat
  • an increase in the respiratory rate which results in a hanging tongue and pants so characteristic of an overheated dog. This phenomenon allows the animal to breathe in more cool, dry air and to reject more hot and humid air. It is all the less effective in an environment loaded with humidity (in confined spaces such as the passenger compartment of a car).

All these mechanisms mobilize a lot of energy and place great demands on the animal’s heart, which must “pump” faster.

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For all these reasons, older dogs with heart disease, lung disease, overweight, and puppies in which these adaptive mechanisms are less effective are even more sensitive to heat. This is also the case for dogs with a flat face, called brachycephalic, such as bulldogs and boxers who have more difficulty in breathing.

How to Tell if a Dog is Overheated?

The signs of overheating in dogs are as follows:

  • increased respiratory rate resulting in panting and significant salivation. It can be complicated by breathing difficulties (the dog has trouble getting air)
  • a state of restlessness that alternates with a state of depression and prostration
  • a decrease in alertness and motor difficulties which can manifest as a staggering gait
  • a loss of consciousness and/or the onset of seizures

These last two symptoms are signs of a stroke caused by the dilation of blood vessels in the dog’s brain. It can lead to a coma and the sudden death of the animal.

Other consequences of heatstroke can be bleeding disorders, acute kidney failure, destruction of muscle fibers, and heart rhythm disturbances which can lead to the death of the dog – even after it has been taken care of by a veterinarian. Apparent remission – up to 48 hours after heatstroke.

How to Cool Down a Dog that is Overheating

When the beautiful days return, the heatwave too. And just like you, your dog is hot, very hot. But he, unlike you, sweats very little. In the event of strong heat, he may therefore have difficulty in cooling his body temperature. In this case, you owe it to yourself to help him cool off in order to avoid dehydration but also possible heatstroke which could be fatal for your dog!

1. Wet his paws

The dog’s sweat glands, which allow it to sweat, are located under its paws, between its pads. So, if you want to keep your dog cool, it is much more useful to wet his paws rather than his head or back. So all you have to do is put a wet glove over your doggie’s paws or immerse its paws in water (definitely not ice water!).

how to cool down a dog that is overheating

2. Put a damp towel on him

To give your dog a little bit of freshness, soak a towel in cool water and put it somewhere in the house where your furball likes to take a nap. If he agrees to lie down on it, he will be delighted to take advantage of this welcoming freshness.

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3. Refresh your rooms

If there is a bit of wind outside, open the windows wide while leaving the shutters closed to create a little draft in the house. You can also place damp towels in front of your windows to moisten the air. If it is still too hot, cover your fan with a damp cloth. This will immediately cool the room and your dog will be all the more delighted. Be careful, however, not to place the fan too close to your dog’s face or to put it too strong.

4. Use a mist sprayer

In the event of strong heat, the mist sprayer is our best friend. Indeed, water sprays are very practical objects to refresh the body in an instant. They are just as good for dogs who will appreciate regular sprays on the parts of their body without hair. The pads, stomach, and inner thighs are particularly recommended to refresh them. However, be careful to avoid the eyes. Plus, you can also spray your pooch’s favorite bunks with water!

5. Favor wet food

If you have the possibility of giving wet food to your dog, it will have the merit of hydrating him. Otherwise, a little trick is to moisten your kibble with water. And luckily, many dogs prefer it when their kibble is softer!

6. Provide shelter for him

If your dog is used to staying outside during the day, it is better to set up a small kennel where he can shelter from the sun and the heat. Indeed, dogs do not always realize that they are cooking, until they feel faint…

7. Do not let him go out in the afternoon

If you want to protect your dog from the heat, the wisest thing is not to let him go outside during the hottest hours of the day. Therefore, avoid walks between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m., especially on asphalt which tends to heat up throughout the day and which can therefore cause serious burns to your dog’s pads.

8. Give him cool water

Unlike cats, dogs don’t hesitate to drink when they’re thirsty. However, their water should always be clean and fresh to encourage them to hydrate. You can even put several bowls of water throughout the house so that your pooch always has quick access to fresh water. Note that it is not recommended to put ice cubes in his water, because not only he may swallow them, but drinking ice water could cause digestive problems.

9. Wipe a damp cloth over his body

If your dog is not a big fan of water, do not hesitate to wipe a damp cloth all over his body to refresh him. Pay particular attention to the hairless areas, especially the stomach and thighs. And if, on the contrary, he is a great swimmer, why not find a stream where he can bathe as he pleases!

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10. Place a bottle of cold water in his bed

So that your dog can lower his body temperature, wrap a bottle of water previously placed in the freezer in a cloth and place it where your pet usually sleeps. You can also use a cooling gel pad that you have refrigerated.

11. Brush him

It may seem strange, but the fact of brushing your dog every day removes the excess dead hair and therefore relieves him a little of this fur so bulky in summer.

12. Install a plastic pool

Do you have a garden? Is your home particularly subject to heat due to lack of shade? So buying a plastic pool (with a non-slip surface for added safety) can be a solution to making your furry best friend happy. He can not only cool off as he pleases, but also play like crazy with or without you!

13. Buy a cooling mattress

Yes, it does exist! The gel capsules contained in the mattress provide an intense sensation of refreshment each time the dog puts his paw on one of them. Ingenious, right?

Our Top Pick
Dogbed4less Premium Head Rest Orthopedic Cooling Memory Foam Dog Bed

Dogbed4less Premium Head Rest Orthopedic Cooling Memory Foam Dog Bed

100% gel-infused temperature regulating memory foam to keep dogs cool in summer and warm in winter

14. Opt for a cooling coat

A simple dip in a basin of fresh water and this clever coat will keep your pooch cool for almost 3 hours. And it’s practical, it hangs with a scratch!

Our Top Pick
RUFFWEAR Swamp Cooler Evaporative Dog Cooling Vest

RUFFWEAR Swamp Cooler Evaporative Dog Cooling Vest

THREE LAYER COOLING: Outer layer reflects heat and facilitates evaporation; Middle layer absorbs and stores water; Mesh lining keeps your dog dry and comfortable 

15. Go on vacation!

If you know that a heatwave is approaching and you have the option of going on vacation with your dog, why not choose a more… Nordic destination?! 😉

Important: This article is for informational purposes only. We always recommend that you go to a trusted vet with your pet first.