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8 signs your dog may be overheating and how to keep them safe in hot weather

Dog overheating in car in summer. (Getty Images)
Learn the vital dos and dont's of looking after your dog in hot weather. (Getty Images)

While we're all – quite rightly – focused on trying to keep ourselves safe in the heatwave, it's important we don't forget about the nation's beloved dog's needs too.

RSPCA polling found that more than a third of people wouldn't know what action to take if their dog was showing signs of heatstroke, with the charity's animal welfare experts urging pet owners to take every precaution possible to protect their pets, which starts with prevention.

We asked Dr Scott Miller, veterinary expert for Barking Heads and This Morning's resident vet expert, for advice.

Read more: Nearly half of dog owners unaware their pets need suncream in hot weather

Signs your pet may be overheating

Dog in shade in hot weather. (Getty Images)
Is your dog acting differently to normal? (Getty Images)
  1. Excessive panting: Panting helps dogs to cool off after exercising or in hotter weather. However, over time, you’ll understand your dog’s regular, normal breathing and panting, so watch out for when it starts to become suspiciously heavy.

  2. Drooling: When dogs salivate uncontrollably from their mouth, which may seem ‘normal’ in certain circumstances, where food may be involved. However, paired with these other listed symptoms, it is an indicator of overheating.

  3. Shaking: Watch out for muscle tremors or shivering even when it is hot.

  4. Rapid breathing: Also known as ‘tachypnea’. In dogs, you need to look out for fast, shallow breathing where their mouth is not as fully open as it would be when they are panting.

  5. Restlessness: This includes pacing back and forth; sitting down and then moving repeatedly; and having difficulty staying in one spot.

  6. Lethargy (Not themselves!): You will know your dog’s regular behaviour, so keep an eye out whether they’re acting like themselves or are not. Overheating also tends to leave dogs sleeping more than usual.

  7. Prolonged lack of appetite: Again, dogs do tend to go off their food when it is hot, due to lower activity levels. However, if this continues for a prolonged time, there may be a cause for concern.

  8. Inability to stand up: Another more obvious sign, if a healthy dog (who wouldn’t normally have trouble) cannot walk or lift themselves up to stand.

Read more: Heatwave advice: Should we keep our windows open or closed in hot weather?, Yahoo Life UK, 3-min read

Can dogs suffer from heat exhaustion and heatstroke?

Vet with husky. (Getty Images)
It's better to take precautionary measures, but if your dog does become extremely distressed, consult a vet. (Getty Images)

Just as humans can suffer from heat exhaustion and heatstroke, so too can dogs.

"Heat exhaustion and heatstroke can present itself as excessive panting that does not abate, distress, drooling or even collapse," Dr Miller explains. "It’s of course, best to not let it get this far by taking precautionary measures to keep your pets as cool as possible during heatwaves."

If you think your pet is in "extreme distress from the heat" he advises contacting your local vet who can decide on the best course of action.

How to prevent your dog from overheating

But there are some preventative measures you can take.

  • Add extra water to their food – soak their dry food and/or feed them wet food for additional hydration support

  • Keep your pet indoors and out of the sun during the strong, direct sunlight hours

  • Don’t shave your dog's coat. It acts as an insulator; keeping your pet warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Regular grooming can help them regulate their temperature, particularly if they have long or thick fur.

  • Walk your dogs early in the morning/late in the evening (feel the pavement with your hand to see if it's cool, to ensure no risk of burning their pads)

  • Always ensure they have access to a full water bowl – you can add ice packs or cubes to their water, make pet ice lollies ('pupsicles')

  • Circulate cool air inside using fans or air conditioning

  • Use damp towels or a cooling mat

  • Add shaded areas in the garden.

  • Apply dog-friendly sunscreen to their skin. Dogs can get sunburnt, too, so don't forget to apply sunscreen to those sensitive areas on your dog’s skin (nose, ears, lips, and stomach). Especially if you have a white, light coloured, or patchy furred dog.

  • Never leave your dog in a hot car.

Read more: Heatwave insomnia: 32 tips and tricks to help you sleep during hot weather, Yahoo Life UK, 8-min read

What to do if your dog is overheating

Dog standing in water. (Getty Images)
Many might not know that dogs shouldn't be fully immersed in water in hot weather. (Getty Images)

Before you act instinctively, there are a few things to be aware of.

“It’s important NOT to fully immerse them in water as that can shock them or turn overheating into shock and/or drowning," Dr Miller warns.

"Instead, standing them in cold water and scooping it over your dog can work well. Otherwise, find shade and dowse them in water from a water bottle. If at home, consider draping them in damp towels and use a fan to cool them."

If you notice your dog is overheating, contact your vet immediately for help.

For more information on helping other animals in the summer, which is equally as important, see the RSPCA's page on animal welfare advice for summer.

Top-rated cooling products for pets

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Pawhut 76cm UV Protecting Elevated Cooling Dog Bed | £30.99 (Was £39.99) from Robert Dyas

Amazon Basics Elevated Portable Pet House | £52.92 from Amazon

Pet Collection Sunshade Dog Bed | £19.99 from Aldi