Is your dog perpetually in pant mode? If you live in a warm climate — or a region that experiences hot summers — keeping your dog safe from overheating during walks and outings is always top of mind. For the rest of the time, you want to keep them comfortable, as hot weather can create discomfort along with inflammatory skin conditions such as hot spots.
Before you weather the next heat wave, use this complete guide to help you keep your dog regulated, safe and comfortable.
The following will cover the causes of overheating in dogs and what you can do about it.
We also have some cool ideas to help your dog beat the heat through external means (fans and ice) as well as internal methods (foods that can have a cooling effect on dogs).
Overheating in dogs
When the day is warm and the sun is bright, you may be in the mood to get out for a hike or bike ride or even a quick walk with your best friend. But always remember that your dog is very likely feeling the effects of the heat more than you are. That’s because their core temperature is higher than ours, ranging from 101-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dogs do pant to release moisture, which takes away some of the excess heat, and their sweat glands are limited to the nose and foot pads. Bottom line, the canine ability to regulate after exerting in the heat isn’t as efficient as a human’s.
Add a layer of fur — particularly if it’s a heat-retaining shade of dark brown or black — and your dog’s body temperature can rise to dangerous levels in a short time on a hot day.
Signs of overheating in dogs
When your dog is overheating, they need immediate attention to keep their core body temperature at a safe level. Heat exhaustion or heat stroke can quickly progress to cardiac arrhythmia — which can be fatal unless you intervene immediately.
To keep your dog safe in hot climates, become aware of the signs of overheating in your dog, and always monitor them:
- Rapid panting that’s intense and prolonged — continuing long after your dog’s activity stopped
- Gums are dry and sticky to the touch
- Darkening of the gums to a deep red or purplish hue — indicating a lack of oxygen
- Foaming at the mouth
- Vomiting and drooling
- Unsteady or stumbling on their feet
- Body temperature exceeds 104 degrees Fahrenheit
- Rapid pulse
Overheated dog treatment
When your dog is showing symptoms of overheating, it’s imperative to take action immediately. Now that you’re familiar with the signs of overheating, have a game plan ready so you can come to your dog’s aid to help him release excess heat and bring their body temperature back to normal before damage is done.
- Move to an air-conditioned space — the next best option is a well-shaded area, away from direct sunlight
- Offer cold water to drink
- Submerge the dog in lukewarm water, either in the bathtub or a wading pool (Note: don’t use cold water, as that can cause the blood vessels to constrict and slows the cooling process)
- If you can’t submerge them, douse their ears and paws with water and apply ice packs to the chest, neck and head areas
- Take your dog’s temperature if you are able, so their vet can provide the right treatments
- Call your vet for treatment
Keeping your dog comfortable in hot weather
Keeping your dog cool and comfortable in hot weather can be an ongoing consideration, particularly if they have a long hair coat, like golden retrievers, German Shepherds and Siberian Huskies. But short-haired dogs can be vulnerable to sunburn and dogs with black coats absorb a lot of heat from the sun.
Try some of these cool ideas to help your pup beat the heat and regulate their temperature.
- Keep a box fan going — many dogs love to lay on the floor and let the moving air whisk away the excess heat
- Stock the freezer with frozen treats for a quick and delicious core cooldown
- Add ice cubes to their water dish
- Top off the meal with a helping of frozen green beans
- Invest in a cooling mat
- Dab their paws and ears with rubbing alcohol — the rapid evaporation carries away some of the heat
- Limit outdoor exercise to the coolest times of day
The cooling effect: Achieve balance in your dog with food energetics
If your pet is miserable in the heat, some pet parents have discovered that simply changing their pet’s diet is surprisingly effective. They practice the energetics of food, feeding their “hot” energy pets with cooling foods.
To choose the right proteins for your dog, you first need to understand food energetics and how it’s practiced by serving hot or cool pets the opposite foods to balance the energy in their body.
How do I determine my dog’s energy?
Food energetics, which dates back to Traditional Chinese Medicine, connects food choice to achieving balance to ying and yang energy in the body. Because each animal protein creates a heating, cooling or neutral sensation as it’s integrated into the body, they’re chosen specifically to target and temper the life energy. This concept can be applied to our pets by identifying their level of life energy and then selecting foods that generate heating energy or cooling energy.
A dog with warm energy is just as it suggests — they can naturally run hot. But warm-energy dogs are said to have specific personality traits, such as being active, high-strung and even irritable, with a tendency to develop medical conditions related to inflammation. Under the theory of food energetics, warm energy is associated with yin deficiency and can be counterbalanced by consuming cooling foods.
Signs of warm-energy dogs:
- Inflamed and irritated skin conditions such as hot spots
- Digestion problems such as upset stomach
- Excessive panting, even in situations where it’s warranted (not exercising, not excessively warm)
- Prefers maintaining their space, tolerating only brief snuggle sessions
- Constantly seeking opportunities to cool off — such as laying on a hard floor or in front of a fan
Cool energy is associated with a yang deficiency in food energetics. Dogs with cool energy are perpetual seekers of heat and rest. Though their couch potato tendencies make them pleasant TV and work-from-home companions, they often suffer from issues associated with slow digestion.
Signs of a cool-energy dog
- Has favored warm spots to nap, whether it’s in front of a heat vent or a sunny spot
- Tolerates or even enjoys being covered with a blanket
- Prone to lethargy, especially in cooler and colder weather
- Poor appetite
- More likely to develop constipation vs. other forms of GI issues
- Susceptible to viruses, yeasts, bacteria infections and pathogens
- Image: Dog cuddled up in blanket or snuggled up to person
- Image alt tag: dog cold energy
Hot and cold proteins in dog food
Now that you know if your dog has warm energy or cold energy, you can start to find foods to aid their health. Warming meats are believed to bring some much-needed spark and ignition to the system of a cool-energy dog. At the same time, warming foods for a warm dog adds fuel to the fire, which is a why neutral or cooling meats are the optimal choices.
Fortunately, pet parents can switch their pet’s food without worry about tummy issues. NutriSource features high-quality proteins and a proprietary blend of probiotics and prebiotics that makes transitions a breeze.
Cooling foods for dogs
Some pet parents find that focusing on feeding their dog the cooling proteins — and taking a break from the standard chicken and whole-grain dog food formula — starts yielding positive change, particularly when the weather is hot. While it won’t regulate their body temperature, the theory is cooling foods have anti-inflammatory properties on the body, which can bring brief relief to itchy skin, hot spots and other hot-weather skin conditions.
To counteract warm energy, try serving these cooling proteins for dogs, along with neutral meats and cooling carbs, and notice any changes you see in your pet.
- White fish
Hint: You can find cooling carbs in grain-free formulas
- Sweet potatoes
- Garbanzo beans
Neutral meats are neither warming nor cooling. To balance the effects of any warming and cooling meats, try formulas that include these animal proteins.
Warming foods for dogs
If your pup could use a little something to spark his energy, hot and warming foods can light the fire in their system, activating their get-up-and-go. By raising their activity level on a chilly day, they can get their blood circulating and warm those chilly ears and paws. Start off with warming meats and carbs, and observe your pet for changes in their digestive health and energy level. If they need a bit more oomph, upgrade to a formula that features one of the hot meats.
- Brown rice
Working food energetics into their day-to-day
The right diet can make your dog feel better in their skin. You can apply the principles of food energetics to meet your dog’s needs as they shift over time. If they’re feeling sluggish and need a kick of energy, try spooning in some canned lamb with their chicken and rice entrée. If they’ve become irritable and itchy in the heat wave, serving up a “cooling” grain-free diet featuring fish, rabbit or duck can get them feeling better more quickly.
With Full Circle Feeding from NutriSource, working food energetics into your dog’s day-to-day needs is effortless for you — while going easy on their system. Our full slate of proteins and novel protein, available in both grain-inclusive and grain-free formulas, ensures you’ll find the perfect meal that brings harmony to your dog’s day.