The dog days of summer are way more fun with your dog. That said, dogs can overheat, and it’s important not to play too long in hotter temperatures. If your dog gets too hot, he or she might suffer from heat exhaustion, or even worse, a deadly heatstroke. Make sure you know the symptoms of overheating, and keep in mind that your dog loves the air conditioning even more than you do. 

Our short-nosed friends—including pugs, Boston terriers, boxers, shih tzus, and lhasa apsos—are more likely to suffer from heatstroke. Their short noses make it harder for them to get enough air to cool themselves down (if their huffing and puffing didn’t already give it away). If it’s hot out, these brachycephalic breeds should only be outside for 10 to 15 minutes. 

What Causes Heatstroke? 

Dogs don’t sweat like humans, and panting is their only mechanism for cooling down. Heatstroke happens when their panting can’t keep up, and their body temperature rises above 39°F. Playing fetch on a hot day can be enough to cause heatstroke. Especially for older and less active dogs, simply running, playing, or even walking in the heat can lead to overheating. 

Most pet owners know you shouldn’t leave your dog in the car. But anywhere that does not have adequate airflow can cause your dog to get dangerously overheated. Fans and open windows are essential to keep your dog comfortable. 

How Do I Prevent Heatstroke? 

There are a few easy steps you can take to keep your dog safe in the summer months:

  1. Make sure your dog has plenty of water at all times. Bring some with you and make sure to fill up your pup’s water dish whenever you stop to fill up your own water bottle. 
  2. Do not leave your dog in the car, even with the windows rolled down. The temperature inside the car gets much hotter than the outside in just a few minutes. Even if it’s just 70°F, inside the car can quickly reach 115 °F. 
  3. Do not go for walks, runs, or hikes during the hottest part of the day. Plan your walks early in the morning or for the sunset. 

Symptoms of Heatstroke 

Look out for the following symptoms of heatstroke: 

  • Heavy panting over a long period of time
  • Excessive drooling
  • Red tongue and gums
  • Unsteady walk and/or collapsing
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

What Should I Do If I Think My Dog Has Heatstroke? 

There are a few methods to get your dog to cool down when they’re overheated: 

  1. Give them cool—not cold—water. (Cold water could send them into shock. It’s best to lower their temperature gradually.) 
  2. Pour cool water over their neck and chest. Do not place wet towels over their body; as their body temperature rises, the towels will trap the heat. 
  3. Place them in a room with air circulation and crank up any fans. 
  4. After you’ve made them as comfortable as possible, call your vet to see if they recommend further treatment. 

The Summer Takeaway 

Get some sunshine, but make sure your dog stays well hydrated and has plenty of shady places where they can relax. Know your dog, and be ready to return to the air conditioning at the first sight of heavy panting. If you’re worried about your dog’s reaction to the heat, get in touch with your vet to make a plan to keep them safe throughout the summer.