To understand this, you have to understand your dog’s cooling system. Think of your dog’s tongue, mouth and nose as his Air Conditioning. He does not sweat as we do but rather runs air over those damp areas, using evaporation to cool down.
It is not an efficient system.
Any dog with a short nose has an even less efficient system. And any dog who has a stocky build. whether by genetics or generosity, has more that needs cooling. Combine the two, as you do in pugs, pekingese, boxers and any bulldog, and you have a dog who can overheat dangerously in minutes.
I don’t want that to happen to you, so here are five signs to watch for in your dog. These are the early signs because catching this early means faster and safer cooling for your friend.
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.
Dog overheating can be serious. Every dog lover should speak to your dog’s veterinarian about symptoms to watch for and what to do. People with high risk breeds—short nosed and/or heavy set—need to know these symptoms by heart, have the local ER hospital on speed dial, and handle their dog cautiously during the hot months.
If you even think your dog might be overheating: Stop what you are doing, seek shade, a cooling dog bed or air conditioning, provide plenty of cool water (not ice) and call the vet!
Want to know more about Canine First Aid? Try these top-rated dog first-aid books: The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats (Prevention Pets), Essential First Aid for Dog Owners, or Field Guide: Dog First Aid Emergency Care for the Hunting, Working, and Outdoor Dog.