Overheated Pets

Pete Wedderburn
16th January 2020 - 3 min read

There are a number of steps that you can take as a pet owner to ensure your pet does not become overheated.

Steps To Avoid Your Pet Overheating

1. Stay Out Of The Heat

Avoid situations that are linked to dogs getting overheated.

  • Don’t leave your dog in a parked car
  • Don’t let your dog travel in the boot for more than the shortest journey
  • Don’t leave your dog in any enclosed space that may become overheated on a hot day. 

If you ever notice your pet panting more than normal on a sunny day, move them into a cooler, shady area: even if they seem happy lying in full sunlight.

dog under table

2. Exercise Wisely

  • Never exercise your pet in the full heat of the day in the summertime.
  • Walk your dog on cooler grass rather than warmer tarmac, as long as they are not allergic to vegetation.
  • Avoid areas of recently cut or mulched grass, as these are more likely to irritate your dog’s feet.
  • Keep a basin of water by the back door so that you can rinse your pet’s feet when you get home to remove any possible irritants.

3. Think Cooling Foods And Drinks

Give less food in hot weather, and feed in the early morning or evening  (the process of digestion can generate a surprising amount of body heat.)

Provide fresh water for your pet at all times, taking a portable water supply on walks with you during the summer months. 

dog wearing sun hat

4. Consider Using Cooling Accessories

(a) Cooling Vests And Cold Mats

Cooling vests and mats can help keep pets cool, but they need to be used with care. For example, the cooling vest work by holding water that continually evaporates, taking heat away from the dog’s body. But if they dry out, they can actually contribute to a dog overheating, making things worse. 

(b) Cooling Collars

Cooling collars are another option: these are broader than normal collars, containing cooling gel.

(c) Wet T-Shirt

A wet t-shirt will help to keep a short haired dog cool, but will not work as well on a long-haired animal.

Don’t use fans to keep dogs cool: they are not effective, as dogs lose heat in a different way to humans. They don’t sweat all over their bodies: they cool down by panting, so fans make little difference to them. The only possible use for fans is when cooling an overheated dog that has been soaked in water, so that heat is then being lost by the evaporation of water from the dog’s body. Vets sometimes do this when treating dogs suffering from heatstroke. 

5. Cooling Activities At Home

Set up a children’s paddling pool (not the inflatable ones: use one of the clam-shaped plastic sandpit type bowls and half fill with water). Place this in the shade, not in the sunlight, and encourage your dog to go into it from time to time.

white dog in the sun

Caring For An Overheated Dog

Be aware of the signs: weakness, collapse, continual panting, unwillingness to do anything other than just lie there.

Start to cool the dog down before going to the vet: in one study, only 38% of dogs died when cooled by the owner, compared to 61% that died if taken to the vet without being cooled by their owner first.  

Do go to the vet if your dog is badly affected: as well as cooling your dog down, vets take other steps (such as intravenous fluids) that limit the damage done to your pet’s internal organs by the excessive heat. Dogs affected by heatstroke often die the following day, 24 hours after they have cooled down, because of the damage to their liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract, as well as disruption to their blood clotting system.