Posted By: Rachel

Heat Stroke in Dogs

With warmer weather and trips to the beach just around the corner, heat stroke is a really common problem we see at the vets and can potentially be life threatening. This article should help you know what signs to look out for, first aid you can do at home and most importantly how to prevent it.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke is a term used to describe excessively elevated body temperature due to exposure to an external heat source such as the sun. A dog’s normal body temperature is between 38.3 and 39.2°C. Body temperatures over 41°C without previous signs of illness are most often caused by heat stroke and temperatures between 41.2°C to 42.7°C is where organ failure begins. Dogs cannot control their own body temperature as they can only sweat through the pads of their feet and can only loose heat via panting. The most common causes of heat stroke are leaving a dog in a car, excessive exercise in hot weather or lying in the sun for too long without water or shade. Flat nosed dogs (brachycephalic breeds) such as pugs and french bulldogs are more at risk of heat stroke due to their already restricted airway. Older dogs, puppies and those with thick coats are also more at risk.

Signs to look out for

If you think your dog might be developing heat stroke these are the most common signs to look out for:

· Elevated breathing rates

· Excessive drooling

· Dry or sticky gums

· Lethargy or disorientation

· Loss of consciousness

· Vomiting

· Seizures


Heat stroke is an emergency, and you should phone your vet immediately if you suspect it. In the meantime you should move your dog out of the sun into a cool shaded place and pour cool (not cold) water over the dogs body. It is important not to reduce their temperature too quickly as this can cause further problems. Placing a fan next to your dog will also help cool them down as this removes the hot air around them. Allow them to drink small amounts of cool water if they want to. At the vets your dog may be put onto intravenous fluids to help rehydrate them as well as put on oxygen to help them breathe better. If not treated promptly heat stroke can be fatal.

How to prevent heat stroke

1) Walk your dog when it’s cool – early morning or later in the evening are the best times to take your dog out in the summer as these are cooler parts of the day. This will also avoid things like burnt paws on hot tarmac.

2) Make sure they always have access to water and shade – take water with you on walks and try and walk in more shaded areas.

3) Encourage the to get wet on warm days – a paddling pool in the garden or even just playing with a hose are good ways to cool your dog down.

4) NEVER leave your dog in the car on a warm day – not even for a few minutes, with the windows open or in the shade.

5) Keep your dog a healthy weight.

6) Consider getting your dog clipped.

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