Summer is one season that can pose various additional problems when it comes to pets. Excessive heat can be of real concern for people as well as for our furry friends. In many parts of the world, summer temperatures are on the rise as well. So it is not unusual to spot a panting dog.
Excessive heat is a very common cause of this kind of panting, as you would expect. But it is not the only reason. So we’ll briefly look at other possibilities before discussing how to manage the overheating issue. This is a matter of concern for both groomers as well as for dog owners.
Why Is My Dog Panting and Restless?
There are a number of reasons that can explain a panting dog, some more serious than others.
Let’s discuss a few of these causes.
- Perhaps your dog has become really excited, for whatever reason. The neighborhood cat? The next-door dog peeping through the fence? Whatever the source of extra interest, out comes the tongue in his excited state.
- Your dog might be at the end of his daily walk. He could pant for a little while until he settles down again.
- Or there could be more serious reasons behind the panting, in which case immediate veterinary attention is warranted. These more serious reasons can include heatstroke, poisoning or an underlying health problem. Addressing these is beyond the scope of this article but it is of the utmost importance that you seek expert intervention by your vet if the symptoms suggest such concerns.
- Then there is the reason that we are talking about here: overheating.
Heat Exhaustion in Dogs – Signs
Given that we are addressing the overheating cause, with respect to panting, let’s look at the signs of heat exhaustion in dogs in general. What you can do about it and how can you hopefully prevent it in the future.
- The obvious sign is the one that we are talking about here: panting.
Since dogs don’t sweat, like we do, panting is a mechanism that cools them down, if heat is the cause. We can often see drooling as well, or droplets of water coming from the far-outstretched tongue. Water evaporation via the mouth is all part of the cooling down process.
- But another sign that your dog might be too hot or might be suffering from heat exhaustion is lethargy. However, if your dog is much more lethargic than usual, then it pays to investigate further. Is it just the heat or something else that suggests a trip to the vet?
- If a dog appears dizzy, there is a problem. It could be heat but it could be something even more serious. Let the vet decide.
- If your dog vomits or even loses consciousness, then you might be looking at heatstroke. You definitely need to get him to the vet ASAP, preferably before the loss of consciousness.
Possible Causes of Overheating in a Dog
Whilst panting is one of the obvious signs that your dog might be overheating or potentially suffering from heat exhaustion, there could be a few different causes behind the overheating.
- This might sound too obvious, but one cause could be that the dog was simply outside too long on a hot day.
- Given that you are reading this article, you are someone who really cares about dogs and their welfare. So, I’m sure you would probably never do this: I’m talking about leaving a dog in a hot car. This is of course a big no-no but I don’t know how many times I have read of just such an incident. Horrible.
- Another reason dogs could be overheating is that they have over-exercised for the capacity of their breed. Some breeds are more energetic than others, so it pays to do research about the breed prior to adopting or buying.
- Overweight dogs feel the heat after exercising much more rapidly than their slender counterparts.
- Again, this might sound obvious, but long haired dogs and older dogs are also more prone to overheating and heat exhaustion. So, groomers to the rescue here.
- Age can also be an issue. Excessive panting in older dogs could be related to overweight, lack of fitness, mere aging or something else altogether. If you can’t pinpoint an actual cause, this should set off alarm bells; consult your vet.
How to Relieve a Panting Dog
So what can you do to help alleviate a mild case of overheating in your dog?
The points in the next section can give you ideas of how to prevent overheating, but what if you suspect your dog is already suffering from heat? What can you do to provide relief?
- First and foremost, if it is overheating that we are talking about, then the dog’s immediate comfort is the goal. This means getting him to a shaded, cooler spot as soon as possible.
- Provide the dog with some water, but don’t force him to drink.
- Get some damp towels and wrap them around your dog.
- You could also try a cooling mat:
- How about a cool dog pool? Ideal for dogs that love the water.
If your dog has signs of heatstroke, like vomiting and losing consciousness, as already mentioned, then you are looking at something else altogether. In those cases, it is straight to the vet.
Ideas to Prevent Heat Exhaustion in Dogs
But what can you do to minimize the risk of overheating in your dog in the first place?
Prevention is best.
- Check the outside temperature before venturing out on a long walk.
If you find it uncomfortably hot, your dog will too.
- Utilize fans/air conditioning inside the home on days of excessive heat.
- Make more frequent visits to the groomer during summer for long haired dogs. You know how much cooler you feel with shorter hair in the hot months; so too does your furry friend.
- If you need to be outside with your dog on very hot days, for whatever reason, make frequent stops in shady areas.
- Never leave a dog in a car on a hot day. Some businesses will even allow well behaved dogs inside provided they are on a leash.
- If you can’t leave a dog at home alone and don’t think you could bring him into a store, then consider leaving him with a neighbour or friend, if possible.
- Wait for a cooler day to go for that long dog walk. Make sure your dog doesn’t over exercise. If he ‘insists’ on a walk when it is really hot outside, choose the early morning or the evening after temperatures start to cool down somewhat.
- If you do let your dogs out in the yard on a hot day, make sure, that they have shade and protection from the sun. Always make sure there is a plentiful supply of water. I’m sure dog owners would remember to give their dogs clean, fresh water everyday, but checking on water levels is even more critical when it’s hot.
So, to sum it up, preventing heat stress, before you have a heavily panting dog, is by far the best course to take.
Make sure your dog always has access to shade, has plenty of water available and, if long-haired, receives that summer clip from your groomer.
The rest is pretty straightforward and commonsense. Walk in the cool of the morning or evening and always avoid leaving a dog in a vehicle on a hot day.
And I know I’m going to sound repetitive here, but if a dog is showing signs of extreme heat agitation, or heatstroke, on panting for no obvious reason, please take him to a vet.