How To Treat (And Possibly Save!) An Overheated Dog

By Kathy Santo | Updated: July 23 2019

Summer heat impacts our dogs as much as (or more than!) it does us.

Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat, and instead regulate their body temperature by panting.  

Here’s how it works:

  • When your dog breathes in air through his nose, it picks up moisture from tissue (i.e. a wet nose)…..
  • ….which captures heat generated from the body, and is exhaled through the mouth… 
  • ….which rids the body of the excess heat, keeping it at a normal temperature. 

As a rule, the faster and more shallow the panting, the more heat the dog’s trying to release. 

It’s important to understand how your dog’s cooling system works, AND the signs of overheating and how to treat them.


One of the greatest dangers that dogs are exposed to in the summer is heatstroke. This can be an extremely serious condition, but it’s also preventable. 

Signs of heat exhaustion can include:

  • Changes in breathing: heavy panting and/or hyperventilation (fast breathing).
  • Changes to the gums and mouth. Normal, healthy gums are pink and moist. But heat stroke affected pets will initially salivate more, as they try to lose heat through evaporation. As their condition worsens, the gums become gray and dry as dehydration sets in.
  • Gastrointestinal signs: Vomiting or diarrhea, sometimes with blood.
  • Eventually slowed or absent breathing efforts, finally, seizures or coma can result.

Many owners assume that if a dog is in the water, he won’t overheat. Unfortunately, that isn’t true, especially when the water temperature is above 75 degrees, and if the dog is working hard in the water.

If a dog shows signs of serious distress from the heat, it’s best to cool him immediately with cool or tepid water rather than really cold water. Most dogs won’t take water at this stage of heat stroke, and it’s not a good idea to spend time trying to get them to drink. Your number one priority is to take him to your vet/nearest animal emergency hospital as quickly as possible.

Kathy Santo has spent her entire career as a dog trainer and handler, training dogs and winning over 500 obedience, agility and Canine Good Citizenship titles. Working with her own dogs, she has achieved every competitive obedience title the American Kennel Club (AKC) has offered and earned the prestigious AKC “Obedience Trial Champion” title (OTCh) multiple times.

In Waldwick, Kathy teaches classes, private lessons, and oversees the training of her student’s dogs using her extensive knowledge, experience and intuition to handle problems from the benign to the serious. Her engaging personality has won her the respect and friendship of her many students, who now consider themselves part of her extended family.


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