How Hot is Too Hot: Overheating in Dogs

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We all look forward to summer, however, the rising temperatures pose a potential risk to your dog. In honor of Heat Awareness Day in May, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about the heat when it comes to your dog. Ensure you keep your canine companion safe this summer by preventing overheating, knowing the signs of overheating, and how to handle overheating. 

Prevent Overheating in Your Dog

Prevention is key when it comes to overheating and heatstroke. Be aware of how hot is too hot and familiarize yourself with just how hot parked cars can get. 

So, How Hot is Too Hot?

Photo Credit: Pet Plan

Depending upon the breed of your dog, age, size, etc. the temperature that can lead to unsafe conditions may vary. Use the chart below as a good rule of thumb to follow. However, always keep an eye on your dog when outdoors and be aware of the signs of overheating. 

Just How Hot Do Cars Get?

Photo Credit: WVMA

While it may seem innocent, never leave your dog or any other pet in a parked vehicle, even for a couple of minutes. The temperature in a parked car can reach 120 degrees in a matter of minutes, leading to a quick danger. Unfortunately, leaving the windows open a few inches is not sufficient in providing proper cooling for your dog. 

If you’re traveling with your dog, be sure to make stops at places where your dog can get out of the vehicle and not be trapped in the car. The chart below illustrates just how hot and how quickly a parked car can get. 

Know the Signs of Overheating:

There are a number of signs that point to overheating. Familiarize yourself with these signs and always keep an eye out when your dog is outdoors, no matter the temperature. The most common signs of overheating are outlined below: 

  • Excessive Panting: This is one of the first, key signs you’ll observe when your dog is getting too hot. 
  • Excessive Drooling: If your dog’s saliva is excessive and thicker than normal, their body is trying to dissipate heat more efficiently. 
  • Fast and Irregular Heartbeat: Your dog is pumping overheated blood away from vital organs to the extremities. 
  • Rapid Breathing: This may look like switching from excessive panting to deep, noisy and rapid breathing. Your dog is attempting to get oxygen into their body for cooling relief. 
  • Lethargy: The heat can cause lethargic behavior; your dog may be napping more or struggling to stand up and walk.
  • Disorientation: Your dog may stumble when walking or appear unaware of their surroundings. 
  • Vomiting and Diarrhea: Gastrointestinal upset may occur due to severe dehydration. 

Collapse: Collapse is very serious. In addition, your dog may also be experiencing neurological distress such as convulsions.  This is an absolute emergency and you should get to a vet immediately.

Who Is at Risk of Overheating?

While all dogs are at risk of overheating, some may be more at risk than others. If your dog is any of the below, ensure you’re extra proactive during the hot weather months:

  • Senior dogs (for most breeds, this is considered to be the age of 7 or 8 years old) 
  • Brachycephalic breeds: These dogs are short-nosed or having “smooshy faces” that make overheating more likely. These breeds include the Pug, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Bulldog, French Bulldog, and Mastiff 
  • Obese or overweight dogs 
  • Dogs with a thick coat 
  • Dogs with an underlying disease or condition 

What to Do If Your Dog Overheats?

In the unfortunate event that your dog is overheating, know how to act accordingly: 

  1. Immediately take your dog to a cooler area, whether that be inside or in the shade
  2. Wet your dog with cool water (do not use cold water since cooling too rapidly can be dangerous) 
  3. If possible, place your dog in front of a fan to dry off. If you have a pet thermometer, check their temperature every few minutes. Once their temperature gets to 103 degrees Fahrenheit, stop wetting and fanning them 
  4. While your dog continues to cool, give them cool water to drink (not cold water or ice) 
  5. Overheating and heat stroke is life-threatening and an emergency. Even if your dog appears to be recovering okay, get them to the vet as soon as possible for monitoring and treatment.

The Dangers of Hot Asphalt and Pavement:

It’s also important to think about the temperature of the hot pavement and asphalt that your canine companion walks on. In direct sunlight, pavement and asphalt can heat up well above the outside temperature. Most natural surfaces can deflect heat, but man-made surfaces like pavement and asphalt absorb the heat reaching dangerous levels. Due to this, dogs’ sensitive paw pads can burn badly on these surfaces. The below chart from the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrates just how hot asphalt gets. 

How Can You Tell If the Asphalt is Too Hot? 

The “5 Second Rule” is a quick and easy way to tell if the surface is too hot for your dog. Place the back of your hand on the asphalt or pavement, if you’re unable to hold it there for 5 seconds it is too hot for your dog to walk on. This indicates it’s hot enough to burn your dogs paws and paw pads. 

Additionally, consider your dog’s age and condition. Puppies especially are not as adaptable to heat and have a lower threshold for hot temperatures. 

How to Prevent Burnt Paws? 

If surfaces are too hot for your dog, consider taking the below preventative measures:

  • Stay inside during peak hours: Walk in the early morning or evening when the sun has gone down and the asphalt is likely to be cooler. However, still check surfaces to be sure it’s cool enough 
  • Walk on natural surfaces: Grass and dirt are great, cooler options!
  • Utilize dog booties to protect paws: Our favorite booties are these urban walkers from Healers Pet Care 
  • Utilize paw balms: Please note these should only be used for a short period of time and are not recommended as a method of full protection from hot temperatures. We love this paw shield balm from Primo Pup 

What Should You Do If Your Dog’s Paws Do Get Burnt?

If your dog’s paws do get burnt, take them to the vet as soon as possible. Burns can become infected easily so it’s important that the wounds are treated properly. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics or pain medication depending on the severity of the burn. 

Your dog will likely need to have their exercise restricted and rough surfaces will need to be avoided during the healing process. You’ll need to monitor the wounds multiple times a day and ensure your dog isn’t licking or chewing at the paws and bandage. More mild burns typically heal within 7-10 days while severe burns can take weeks to properly heal. 

Conclusion

Use the above information to ensure you and your dog have a happy and safe summer. Prevention is key when it comes to overheating and by following safe practices you too can prevent your dog from experiencing the dangers of the warmer months. 

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