Recognizing Overheating/Dehydration in Dogs


With summer here in South Carolina in full swing, temperatures climb daily. Dogs naturally have a higher body temperature than their human counterparts, so watching your pet for signs of overheating is critical, especially so in the beloved South.

This dog could be suffering from heat stroke – a deadly condition of overheating. Cool towels or cool water are advised for use for overheating in lieu of ice whenever possible.


This great chart from, shows what to look for in an overheated dog.

Heavy panting Elevated body temperature
Excessive thirst Weakness, collapse
Glazed eyes Increased pulse and heartbeat
Vomiting, bloody diarrhea Seizures
Bright or dark red tongue, gums Excessive drooling
Staggering Unconsciousness


You can also tell a lot from a dog’s mouth and tongue! Check out the list below from Sarah Wilson, Dog Trainer.

Identifying your dog’s long tongue, wide tongue, or even dark tongue can save your pet’s life.

1) Mouth Wide The wider the mouth, the higher the AC is “turned up” in your dog. When it is wide open there will be wrinkling at the back of the lips and you’ll practically see his tonsils; he’s hot!

2) Tongue Long
The more tongue hangs out of his mouth, the more air is being pulled over it with every breath and more cooling is possible. When your dog’s tongue starts hanging down well past his teeth, chances are he’s hot.
3) Tongue Wide
As your dog heats up, his tongue widens and thins. The wider and thinner it is, the more surface area there is for cooling. In the picture above, you can see the tongue starting to broaden. I call that “bologna tongue” since that’s what it starts to look like.
4) Tongue Dark
The hotter the dog, the more blood is sent to the tongue in an attempt to cool it. That increased blood flow darkens the tongue.
5) Fast Panting
Makes sense, right? Faster panting is another way to up his AC. It’s his best way to try to cool himself.

Treating the Overheated Dog: Avoiding Heat Stroke

“If your dog’s body temperature gets to 109°F or higher, heatstroke is the result. The cells of the body rapidly start to die. The brain swells, causing seizures. Lack of blood supply to the GI tract causes ulcers. Dehydration leads to irreversible kidney damage. All these catastrophic events take place within a matter of minutes.” Dr. Becker,
If your dog is standing, or at least conscious and panting, move her in a cool place, preferably air conditioned or with a fan. Give her small drinks of water (gulping water could cause vomiting), and take her temperature with a rectal thermometer if possible. If she has rectal temperature of 104 degrees or lower, stay with her in the cool area, with cool towel and sips of water until she cools down and recovers. 
TIP: Use cool water or cool towels, NOT COLD – which can shock her system. You can use a hose, stream, bottled water, whatever is available, to gently cool the whole body of the dog, concentrating on her head, neck, armpits, between her legs, ear flaps and paw pads.  Applying rubbing alcohol to the inner flaps of the ear and pads of the feet will also draw out heat from your dogs body.


If the dog is unable to stand on his own, is unresponsive to your voice, touch or the sight of you, or is having seizures, check for breathing and a heartbeat. At the same time, have someone contact a veterinary hospital (or make the call yourself if you’re alone with your pet) to let them know you’ll be bringing him in right away. It’s important to alert the clinic you’re on the way so they can prepare for your arrival.