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What to Do If Your Dog Overheats (And What You Should Never Do) 

what to do if your dog overheats

With rising temperatures, many of our customers ask about dogs in hot weather, specifically, what to do if your dog overheats. As there are some common misconceptions about treating an overheated dog, we wanted to give you the advice set out by animal welfare experts.

We’ll look at why dogs are vulnerable in hot weather, the signs your dog is overheating, how to bring its temperature down safely, and what you can do to prevent it from happening.  

What to do if your dog overheats 

Did you know, in 2022 vets reported nearly 400 cases of heat-related illnesses to their surgeries? This devastating report showed the fatality rate was 26.6%; that amounts to 1 in every 4 dogs seen for heatstroke died. So why is hot weather dangerous for dogs?  

Why are dogs vulnerable in hot weather? 

Dogs don’t sweat the same way humans do. When we sweat, the sweat evaporates from our skin, which transfers heat away from the body, cooling it down. We have sweat glands all over our body, which helps this process, but dogs don’t.  

Dogs have to cool down differently. You might have noticed your dog panting in hot weather. This is because dogs use their mouths to cool down. Dogs inhale cool, dry air through the nose and exhale the warm, moist air from their lungs through the mouth. This is their version of evaporation, and it works pretty well mostly. However, if the air they are breathing is hot or moist, this method doesn’t work well, so their risk of overheating increases.  

There are two principal causes of heatstroke in dogs: 

  1. Exercising on a hot day: When the temperature reaches 22C (70F) or over it is sensible to walk your dog early in the morning or late in the evening.  

  2. Being left in a car on a hot day: The temperature in cars can increase by 4C degrees (40F) an hour, so if outside is only 22C (70F), inside the car can easily reach 43C (110F). 

Signs of overheating in dogs 

Dogs overheating in the heat

Early signs of overheating 

  • Rapid and excessive panting 

  • Extreme drooling 

  • Lethargy 

  • Bright red inside the mouth 

Critical signs of overheating 

  • Laboured breathing 

  • Mouth turns grey/purple 

  • Vomiting/diarrhea 

  • Unstable on feet 

  • Collapse 

  • Seizures 

What to do if your dog overheats 

If your dog is showing any of the above signs and you think they are overheating, call your vet straight away, but take immediate steps to cool your dog down. This is extremely important. Not only can a dog die from heatstroke, but studies show early cooling prior to travelling to a vet increases the chance of a good recovery by 50 to 80% with fewer health complications in the future.  

Get your dog away from direct sunlight or out of the hot environment. 

Move them to a shaded or cooler area.  

Spritz cool water over your dog or spray with a garden hose and create a breeze with a fan or by fanning

How to cool a dog down in a heatwave or hot weather with a hose pipe.

your dog.  

Pour cool or tepid water all over your dog. Don’t use icy cold water as this causes blood vessels near the surface of the skin to constrict and can reduce heat loss instead of increasing it. However, don’t delay cooling because you can’t find tepid water. The RSPCA advises any water is better than none, so use whatever water you can in an emergency.


Offer your dog small amounts of cool water to drink, but don’t compel them to drink. Their breathing is their primary focus.  

Keep pouring cool water over your dog until their panting slows down. Your aim is to get their temperature back to normal, not to make them too cold so they shiver.   

Put wet towels on their feet and/or lay them down on a wet towel. You can also use cooling collars, coats or cool mats.  

If your dog has collapsed, they need urgent aggressive cooling. If you can, fully submerge your dog in a cool bath or paddling pool, supporting their heads so they don’t breathe in water. Continue with the cooling efforts while you transport them to a veterinary surgeon.  

What you should never do if your dog overheats 

Never put wet towels over a dog when they are overheating. This traps the hot air so it can’t escape and makes the situation worse. You can use wet towels but put them on hairless areas such as the stomach and feet.  

Finally, never pour water over your dog’s head when you are treating for heatstroke. A dog pants rapidly to cool themselves down and can accidentally breathe in water which could lead to drowning.  

Be mindful that older dogs, dogs that are unwell, and certain breeds of dog with flat faces are more vulnerable to hot weather. Watching a dog suffer from heatstroke is awful and can cause tremendous damage if it’s not fatal.  

How to keep dogs from overheating

Dog drinking cold water in the heatwave

Prevention is always better.

Always make sure your dog has access to cool water and shade.  

Never walk your dog during the hottest time of the day. 

Never leave your dog in a car in warm weather.  

On extremely hot days, keep your dog inside with a cooling fan or with the A/C on.  



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