Understanding Heat Stroke in Dogs

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke is a severe and potentially life-threatening case of becoming overheated. It can lead to dehydration, seizures, coma, cardiac arrest, and in some cases, death, if not treated promptly. 


What causes heat stroke?

Heat stroke is the result of your dog not being able to cool himself properly.

Dogs pant to cool themselves off, and this is only effective up until a certain point.

Prolonged exposure to the sun, being trapped in a hot car, insufficient access to drinking water, and excessive exercise during hot or humid days can all lead to heat stroke.

Certain dogs are at a higher risk of getting heat stroke, including:

  • Puppies
  • Elderly dogs
  • Brachycephalic dogs (flat faced dogs)
  • Overweight dogs
  • Dogs with heart or respiratory diseases
  • Dogs prone to seizures
  • Dogs with double coats, thick coats, and/or dark colored coats


What are the signs of heat stroke?

Early signs of heat stroke in dogs include:

  • Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Heavy drooling
  • Mild weakness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Collapse
  • Unusual color tongue and/or gums


More severe signs include:

  • Seizures
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Body temp over 104


What to do if you suspect your dog has heat stroke?

If you suspect your dog is suffering from heat stroke, take immediate action:

  1. Move to a cooler environment: Get your dog into the shade or an air-conditioned area.
  2. Cool them down: Apply cold towels to their head, neck, chest, armpits, and paws or run room temperature (not cold) water over them. Avoid using cold water as it can cause their body to go into shock.
  3. Hydrate slowly: Offer small amounts of water. Drinking too quickly can cause further issues. If your dog refuses to drink, try having them lick an ice cube without eating it.
  4. Seek veterinary care: Even if your dog appears to recover, it's crucial to take them to the vet immediately. Heat stroke can cause internal damage that isn't immediately apparent.


Prevention tips

Preventing heat stroke is key to keeping your dog safe during hot weather. Here are some tips:

  1. Limit exercise: Avoid vigorous activities during the hottest parts of the day. Walk your dog early morning or late in the evening when temperatures have cooled.
  2. Check the humidity: Keep in mind that it's not always about the high temperatures. High humidity makes it harder to breathe and properly cool themselves.
  3. Provide shade and water: Ensure your dog always has access to shade and plenty of fresh water when they are outside.
  4. Never leave your dog in a car: Temperatures inside a car can rise rapidly, even on mild days.
  5. Know your dog’s limits: Be especially cautious if your dog falls into one of the high-risk categories mentioned above.


Understanding heat stroke and taking proactive measures can help ensure your dog stays safe and healthy during the warmer months. Stay vigilant, keep your dog cool, and enjoy the summer together safely.


For more Summer safety tips check out this post.