Dog panting outdoors in the sun

12 Signs Your Dog is Overheated (and How to Help)

Our veterinarians research and recommend the best products. Learn more about our process. We may receive a commission on purchases made from our links.

Like people, dogs can become overheated if they’re exposed to hot temperatures for a long period of time. Heat-related illnesses can be serious in dogs, leading to organ damage, seizures, GI problems, abnormal heart rhythms, and even death. That’s why it’s important for pet parents to know how to identify the signs your dog is overheated and what you can do to reduce the risk of serious complications from heat-related illness.

How Do Dogs Cool Off?

Before we discuss signs dogs show when overheating, we need to understand how a dog cools off.

There are four main ways in general to expel excess heat:12

  1. In conduction, we expose the body’s surface to colder temperatures, allowing heat transfer from that surface. An example would be a dog lying on a cold cement floor.
  2. In convection, air passing over the pet is colder than the pet is. This is achieved with a
    1. Fan
    2. An open window in the car and head sticking out
  3. In radiation, heat can stem off the body. Think of how heat is given off by a fire.
  4. In evaporation, heat loss equals water loss, and this is a dog’s primary means of heat exchange.
    1. Most species evaporate via sweating. Humans and horses are very good at this. Since dogs only have sweat glands primarily on their feet, it is an insufficient cooling method.
    2. So, dogs primarily get rid of heat by panting. For a detailed explanation of how panting leads to cooling, visit this post from the American Kennel Club.
    3. The hotter it is, the more active your dog is, the more humid it is, the harder panting becomes, the more likely your dog is to exhibit one or more signs that your dog is overheating.

Risk Factors for Heat Injury

Boxer laying in the grass panting

Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

Dogs at higher risk for overheating include:34

  • The very young
  • The elderly
  • Smooshed face breeds (brachycephalic dogs) with narrow airways and a less effective heat-exchange
  • Those with underlying illnesses such as heart disease or kidney disease
  • Obesity

Conditions that increase the risk of overheating include:56

  • Improper acclimatization (not getting used to the weather gradually over time)
  • Certain medications
  • Lack of ventilation, being confined, and or a lack of air conditioning
  • Thick hair coats
  • Darker furred/pigmented dogs retain heat
  • Shaving long-haired and or double-coated dogs in summer

12+ Signs of Heat Stress (Overheating) in Dogs

Sign 1: Excessive and non-stop panting

Panting outside in the elements and with exercise is normal. However, suppose panting continues after they have been removed from the hot environment and activity stops. In that case, this is very concerning and suggests early action be taken!78

Sign 2: Agitation or restlessness

Dogs may show signs of an inability to settle. They may pace or act distressed, even “dazed.” They may appear to settle then suddenly get up and pace or act anxious.910

Sign 3: Abnormal color to the tongue and/or gums

  • Purple or deep red tongue11
  • Bright red, gray, purple, or blue

Sign 4: Drooling or very thick saliva

Though harder to assess in breeds who commonly drool, the drool is often thick strands, and slimy, unlike normal saliva. In dogs who don’t normally drool, seeing them do so can signify dental disease, nausea, or other illness. But with known heat exposure, it is an early sign of being overheated. Act ASAP.1213

Sign 5: Cold-seeking behavior

This makes sense. If dogs can cool off in ways in addition to panting, they will do so. They may

  • Seek out the shade
  • Lay on cool surfaces (cold cement floor)
  • Lay on cooling beds (if available)
  • Seek a cold-water source

Sign 6:  Not eating or taking treats

Most dogs won’t eat when they are hot. Could you eat well if you were panting and trying to get rid of heat? Would you want to?

Sign 7:  Disobedience

Dogs may seem to fail to follow commands, requests, or familiar cues. It may look like the dog is suddenly disobeying an owner. They may be aloof, confused, or have other signs that suggest a lack of focus.

Sign 8:  Staggering, wobbling, or refusing to walk either on or off-leash

This can show as exercise intolerance, including sitting and not wanting to move or sprawling out on the ground and refusing to get back up. The dog may seem drunk and unsteady when walking.14

Sign 9: GI signs: Vomiting/Diarrhea

Vomiting/diarrhea can occur with any breed, anytime and after even minimal exposure to heat. Sometimes it is a later sign, developing a few hours later. Other times it may be the only sign you appreciate. The presence of GI signs varies with each dog. If your dog has been outside for more than 5 minutes in high humidity and heat and suddenly is having vomiting and or diarrhea, seek medical attention asap. It could be he ate something, an allergic reaction to a bee sting, for example, or a heat-related injury.15

Sign 10: Not urinating, despite drinking

This suggests dehydration, so do not wait until this occurs before seeking care. If you wait until your dog stops urinating, a lot of damage could already be present.16

Sign 11: Muscle tremors

The muscles of any part of the body could twitch, shake, or tremor. If you notice this, seek veterinary care.

Sign 12: Dehydration

Signs consistent with dehydration include many of those above and generalized weakness, sleepiness, collapse, or death.1718

2 Additional Signs Your Dog is Overheated

Two additional signs of an overheated dog are a rapid heartbeat and an elevated temperature. However, you will need to put your hands on your dog to assess these.192021

Sign 1: Rapid pulse (heart rate)

What is a normal pulse? What is expected at rest vs. what is expected after appropriate exercise? How soon should it return to normal?

This depends on the size and breed of the dog. Smaller breeds typically have faster heart rates.

Normal range: 60-160 beats per minute (BPM) at rest.

Some dogs may go above 200 BPM with exercise, but it should return to normal in 5-10 minutes or less, ideally.

How to check the pulse/heart rate

You can check in some dogs by simply feeling the heartbeat and counting how many per minute.

Some dogs are too large or obese to feel the heart this way. For these dogs, you can feel the femoral artery, the blood vessel in the groin. Feel for this artery where the dog’s inner thigh meets the body wall. Put your hand in that area and press in. If you press too far in, you may not appreciate it, and if you don’t push far enough, you may not feel it.

Practice on your dog when they are sleepy to get a sense of what normal feels like. In a questionable situation, you can compare it to that normal.

Sign 2: Hyperthermia (elevated temperature)

A dog’s average temperature is 100-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

What is considered an acceptable elevation with heat, exercise, activity, excitement?

103.5 is the upper end of normal in a hyperactive, excited, stressed dog.

But an exercising dog could have a temperature up in the 105s. The number itself doesn’t tell us that the animal is overheated. Overheated dogs often feel hot to the touch.

Higher than average temperatures should return to a normal level within 5-10 minutes of being in a cool, calm environment.

At what temperature does it become a true emergency?

105-105.8 degrees Fahrenheit: When the temperature gets to be this high and fails to return to normal in a few minutes, we reach the danger zone!

Can you go only by temperature?

No. Sometimes the temperature can normalize without intervention, yet the pet can still have heat stress or worse injury. So, just because you do not get a temperature in the scary range doesn’t mean you don’t have a seriously ill pet.

How to Help an Overheated Dog

Too late, they are hot and showing signs, now what?

Recognizing when your pet starts to overheat is crucial so that you can act ASAP!

Dogs with heat-related illnesses can develop GI problems, abnormal heart rhythms, brain dysfunction, lung damage, or kidney damage. They can become unconscious, have a seizure, and even die.

Organ damage occurs rapidly secondary to a series of complex processes. Damage can occur to all body systems and can lead to a complete systemic shutdown. It doesn’t take much, so the best way to help a dog is to prevent it!222324

However, if your dog does overheat, here’s how can you help.

First and foremost, get them out of the heat! Bring them into an airconditioned room ideally, but at the very least, get them into the shade!

Take their temperature. If you can take a temperature, do so. Knowing your dog’s temperature at the start of a cooldown helps prevent cooling the pet down too quickly. You can take a dog’s temperature rectally (in the rump) or by placing a thermometer tightly in your dog’s armpits and adding 2 degrees to the measurement. Rectal is ideal with Vaseline or plain KY jelly to lubricate the thermometer.25

Active cooling until the dog’s temperature drops to 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Active cooling includes the use of a variety of methods. Anytime water is mentioned, some still preach not too cold, cool water, but ideally, you want to just get the temperature down.26

  • Use ice packs and cool to cold water applied to the head, neck, and chest
    • Encourage additional evaporation by placing a fan nearby and aiming it at areas you wetted down.
    • By wetting the outside ear flaps, the back of the neck, and armpits, you provide a surface to run the fan over to allow evaporation.27
    • Replace ice packs and rewet the fur only if the pet’s temperature remains above 103ºF.
  • Don’t cool too quickly! If you super cool them, you can cause hypothermia (low temperature) and other life-threatening illnesses.
  • Monitor the temperature as you bring it down if you can. If not, then do this for a few minutes and get them to the vet ASAP.
  • Use kiddy pools.
  • Spray them gently with a cool water hose.
  • Use cooling beds and other cooling products.

Passive cooling after reaching 103ºF. Once the temperature reaches 103ºF, we stop actively cooling them. You want to remove any ice packs and stop actively wetting them and allow them to dry off.

  • Allow a few ice pieces (crushed) at a time or small drinks of cool water. Even popsicles or other tasty dog-safe frozen treats.
  • Do not let them guzzle or drink too much at once, as they can get sick quickly. Allow brief sips, then remove for a few minutes.

Steps You Can Take to Prevent Your Dog from Overheating

  • Ensure adequate cool water access even while on a walk.28
    • Carry with you a water bottle that can rapidly dispense the water or allows you to pour it into a bowl, such as this one.
  • Test the waters: The asphalt gets extremely hot and very rapidly!!!
    • Before you walk or let your dog out in the backyard, touch the asphalt with your hand. If you pick your hand up because of how hot it feels, then imagine how hot that is for your dog’s feet. They have very sensitive footpads, and not only can they not evaporate heat, but they can burn their footpads and get sores.
    • Also, if it is so hot and humid that you start sweating immediately, think how hard it will be for them to cool off. Remember, your dog cannot sweat sufficiently and must pant to try to get rid of heat.2930
  • NEVER leave any pet in a car, even with the windows down.31
    • We could write an entire article about why this shouldn’t be done. EVEN with the windows open, a car can climb well over 100 degrees in a few short minutes. Your pet, which cools down only by panting, cannot pant enough and evaporate enough heat to remain safe in a car even if it is only 60 degrees.
  • Ensure proper acclimatization to weather changes and extremes, including too cold and extra hot weather. This means gradually allow their body to get used to warmer temperatures slowly over time.
  • Provide your dog with a controlled thermal environment during sweltering days, including air-conditioning, fans, sufficient shade, or the coolest room in the house if not airconditioned.
    • Ensure proper shade when outdoors.
    • Provide cooling products such as cooling mats or beds, beds raised off the ground that allows air circulation underneath the pet, and more!
  • Monitor the heat indices and UV levels, only walking your dog during the coolest times of the day. This is usually first thing in the morning or later in the evening when the sun is lowest in the sky. Use a phone weather app to gauge temperature, humidity, risk levels.
  • Do not shave long-haired dogs.            
    • Seems like this would help, right? But fur provides insulation, keeping dogs warm in the winter and cool in the warmer months.
    • When you shave them, you are doing them a disservice. Now they cannot protect themselves properly.
    • Additionally, it increases the risk of sun exposure, including skin cancers and sunburns. (Light-haired/white-skinned areas are more sensitive to skin sun damage).
  • Monitor extra carefully those dogs with underlying illnesses, older age, smooshed-faced breeds (brachycephalic dogs), including small breeds like French and English bulldogs or larger dogs such as Boxers or Doge De Bordeauxs.32
    • Because their airways are narrower and less efficient at evaporative cooling. They are at even higher risk for heat-related injury.
    • Heat injury occurs much faster in these breeds vs. in normal snouted dogs.
    • The older a brachycephalic dog, the more inflammation and narrowing of the airways have developed over time. Thus, the risk of heat-related illness goes up with age exponentially.
  • Monitor your pet closely during all outdoor and even indoor activities. They don’t have to be outdoors to get overheated.
    • Prevent overexertion by intervening before you start to notice signs or at the first sign you do.
    • Any behavior change could be secondary to heat stress.
    • Check the foot pads for signs of redness, fissures, and irritation. If you see your dog licking at a foot/feet, this could suggest burns to the feet.
  • Last but not least, always ensure your pet has access to fresh water, inside and out!33

Final Thoughts

You can still enjoy long walks, playing with your dog, going to the park, and more, even if it’s peak summer and the heat abounds. But take care to do it with preplanning. Walk early before the sun fully rises or later in the day when it is starting to set or has set.

Watch your dog for signs of stress, including drooling, squinty eyes, stumbling, tongue hanging out excessively, not wanting to eat or take treats, exercise intolerance, vomiting, or diarrhea. And if any signs are noted, immediately seek shelter, start cooling your dog down or bring your pet directly to a veterinarian.

Ensure that fans and towels are readily available in case of this type of emergency. If needed, plop your pet into a bathtub or kiddy pool to cool off. Remember, don’t use freezing water or warm water. Recall, you do not want to drop the temperature too quickly, but early treatment can save lives! Just taking a few minutes to cool your pet down to 103 degrees Fahrenheit before bringing your overheated dog to a veterinarian could be the factor that decides between life or death.

If you suspect you have an overheated dog, act immediately!

Article Sources

Pet News Daily uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Minninger S, Detweiler J, Nace M, Greier M. Canine Emergency Care For Prehospital Providers. PowerPoint Presentation presented at the: Various Continuing Education Sessions Throughout Pennsylvania.
  2. Tramuta-Drobnis, Erica L. Heat related illnesses and CIRD. PowerPoint Presentation presented at the: July 1, 2021; Cold Nose Lodge, Alburtis, PA. Unpublished.
  3. Tramuta-Drobnis, Erica L. Heat related illnesses and CIRD. PowerPoint Presentation presented at the: July 1, 2021; Cold Nose Lodge, Alburtis, PA. Unpublished.
  4. Farrell K. VIN/VECCS Rounds: The Hazards of Heat Stroke. VIN.COM. Published March 23, 2020. Accessed June 30, 2021.
  5. Minninger S, Detweiler J, Nace M, Greier M. Canine Emergency Care For Prehospital Providers. PowerPoint Presentation presented at the: Various Continuing Education Sessions Throughout Pennsylvania.
  6. Johnson T. Don’t Make my Mistake: Prevent Heatstroke. VETzInsight. Published August 15, 2019.
  7. Johnson T. Don’t Make my Mistake: Prevent Heatstroke. VETzInsight. Published August 15, 2019. https://www.vin.com/vetzinsight/default.aspx?pId=756&id=9213385
  8. Minninger S, Detweiler J. Canine First Aid for Law Enforcement K-9 Handlers. PowerPoint Presentation presented at the: Northeast Pennsylvania. Unpublished.
  9. Minninger S, Detweiler J, Nace M, Greier M. Canine Emergency Care For Prehospital Providers. PowerPoint Presentation presented at the: Various Continuing Education Sessions Throughout Pennsylvania.
  10. Tramuta-Drobnis, Erica L. Heat related illnesses and CIRD. PowerPoint Presentation presented at the: July 1, 2021; Cold Nose Lodge, Alburtis, PA. Unpublished.
  11. The American Kennel Club. How to Keep Your Dog Cool | Hot Weather Pet Products. Retrievist. Published 2021. Accessed August 9, 2021. https://retrievist.akc.org/essentials/hot-weather-dog-essentials/
  12. Tramuta-Drobnis EL. Small Animal First Aid. PowerPoint Presentation presented at the: Lehigh Valley County Animal Response Team Training; January 11, 2020; Allentown, PA. Unpublished.
  13. The American Kennel Club. How to Keep Your Dog Cool | Hot Weather Pet Products. Retrievist. Published 2021. Accessed August 9, 2021. https://retrievist.akc.org/essentials/hot-weather-dog-essentials/
  14. Foght K. Effects of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs. Hollywood Feed University. Published July 22, 2016. Accessed August 12, 2021. https://hfu.hollywoodfeed.com/effects-of-heat-exhaustion-in-dogs/
  15. Foght K. Effects of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs. Hollywood Feed University. Published July 22, 2016. Accessed August 12, 2021. https://hfu.hollywoodfeed.com/effects-of-heat-exhaustion-in-dogs/
  16. Otto CM. Dehydration: Lessons from Professional Canine Athletes. In: VIN.Com. VIN.COM; 2015. https://www.vin.com/doc/?id=8191258
  17. Otto CM. Dehydration: Lessons from Professional Canine Athletes. In: VIN.Com. VIN.COM; 2015. https://www.vin.com/doc/?id=8191258
  18. Foght K. Effects of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs. Hollywood Feed University. Published July 22, 2016. Accessed August 12, 2021. https://hfu.hollywoodfeed.com/effects-of-heat-exhaustion-in-dogs/
  19. Tramuta-Drobnis, Erica L. Heat related illnesses and CIRD. PowerPoint Presentation presented at the: July 1, 2021; Cold Nose Lodge, Alburtis, PA. Unpublished.
  20. Minninger S, Detweiler J. Canine First Aid for Law Enforcement K-9 Handlers. PowerPoint Presentation presented at the: Northeast Pennsylvania. Unpublished.
  21. Tramuta-Drobnis EL. Small Animal First Aid. PowerPoint Presentation presented at the: Lehigh Valley County Animal Response Team Training; January 11, 2020; Allentown, PA. Unpublished.
  22. Minninger S, Detweiler J, Nace M, Greier M. Canine Emergency Care For Prehospital Providers. PowerPoint Presentation presented at the: Various Continuing Education Sessions Throughout Pennsylvania.
  23. Tramuta-Drobnis, Erica L. Heat related illnesses and CIRD. PowerPoint Presentation presented at the: July 1, 2021; Cold Nose Lodge, Alburtis, PA. Unpublished.
  24. Johnson T. Don’t Make my Mistake: Prevent Heatstroke. VETzInsight. Published August 15, 2019.
  25. Foght K. Effects of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs. Hollywood Feed University. Published July 22, 2016. Accessed August 12, 2021.
  26. Tramuta-Drobnis EL. Small Animal First Aid. PowerPoint Presentation presented at the: Lehigh Valley County Animal Response Team Training; January 11, 2020; Allentown, PA. Unpublished.
  27. Gfeller R, Thomas M, Mayo I. Hyperthermia (Heat Stroke): First Aid. Veterinary Partner by VIN. Published March 26, 2020. Accessed July 1, 2021.
  28. Minninger S, Detweiler J. Canine First Aid for Law Enforcement K-9 Handlers. PowerPoint Presentation presented at the: Northeast Pennsylvania. Unpublished.
  29. Tramuta-Drobnis EL. Small Animal First Aid. PowerPoint Presentation presented at the: Lehigh Valley County Animal Response Team Training; January 11, 2020; Allentown, PA. Unpublished.
  30. Gfeller R, Thomas M, Mayo I. Hyperthermia (Heat Stroke): First Aid. Veterinary Partner by VIN. Published March 26, 2020. Accessed July 1, 2021.
  31. Johnson T. Don’t Make my Mistake: Prevent Heatstroke. VETzInsight. Published August 15, 2019.
  32. Foght K. Effects of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs. Hollywood Feed University. Published July 22, 2016. Accessed August 12, 2021.
  33. Tramuta-Drobnis EL. Hypothermia and Hyperthermia (Heat Stroke): Lecture 8. PowerPoint Presentation and Lecture 8 of all day lecture series presented at the: Prehospital Provider and K9 handling seminar on canine emergencies; October 19, 2015; Allentown, PA. Not published.
Dr. Erica Tramuta-Drobnis
Erica Tramuta-Drobnis, VMD, MPH, CPH, is a freelance writer, veterinarian, and public health professional. She received her VMD in 2005 from the University of Pennsylvania. Her veterinary clinical experiences, spanning over 16 years, include a keen interest in such topics as veterinary nutrition, pain management and prevention, internal medicine, critical care medicine, behavior, and positive reinforcement training, and infectious/zoonotic diseases. She received her Master’s in Public Health (MPH) in 2019 and became Certified in Public Health (CPH) in 2020. She has a passion for the One Health public health framework, a multi-disciplinary approach to human, animal, and environmental health. Dr. Tramuta currently works in veterinary emergency & critical care while establishing herself as a freelance writer and consultant. Having recently formed her own company, ELTD One Health Consulting, LLC, she works to build her name and brand. She provides research services, literature and systematic reviews, professional editing, and writes on numerous topics and various formats, including blog articles, continuing education courses, and more. She is hoping to establish her niche in a One Health world. She currently resides outside of Allentown, PA, with her husband, an internal medicine physician, and her 2-year-old 4-legged daughter, Jazzy.