Posted By: Jen

Summer heat wave - Heat stroke

As it is Flaming July, we thought it a good idea to take the opportunity to discuss Heat Stroke in dogs.

Heat Stroke in dogs can kill, every year we see dogs brought into the practice with heat stroke. Thankfully cases have been reducing as awareness has been raised by several high profile campaigns by the RSPCA including #dogsdieinhotcars and #dogsdieonhotwalks

When dogs get too hot and are unable to control their body temperature by panting, they can rapidly develop heat stroke and die.

Signs to look for include heavy panting and difficulty breathing, excessive drooling, they can become lethargic, drowsy and uncoordinated, they can also start vomiting and collapse

More people are now aware to never leave your dog alone in a car on a warm day. If you see a dog in distress in a hot car, dial 999.

But there are some who still think it's ok to leave their dog in the car if they're parked in the shade or the windows are open. A car can become as hot as an oven very rapidly even on a cloudy or overcast day. Cars can reach 47 degrees Celsius within an hour when the temperature outside is only 22 degrees Celsius.


Exercise on a warm day can also cause heat related illnesses and heat stroke.

In fact, it affects 10 times more dogs than those overheating in cars and we see more cases of exercise related heat illnesses now more than any other. It doesn't have to be a hot - or even warm - day for your dog to be affected. After a cold winter, dogs can take weeks to get used warmer temperatures. If your dog has a health condition, they could overheat even when it's quite cool.


Dogs particularly susceptible to heat stroke and related illnesses include dogs with breathing issues; they can find it harder to pant and therefore regulate their temperature. Flat faced (brachycephalic) dogs, such as Pugs or French bulldogs, often have trouble breathing. As do dogs with heart problems or respiratory disease.

Dogs with thick coats find it harder to lose heat through their bodies, it is more difficult with a thicker coat or wearing doggy clothes for them to regulate their temperature.

Unfit or overweight dogs will cool down more slowly. Likewise, if they are dehydrated, injured or unwell they could struggle when exercising.


If your dog is unwell or develops a new cough or noise when breathing, avoid exercise and speak to your vet. If they have an underlying condition, think about staying at home. Or take slow, short, shady walks, and keep a close eye on them. Early morning or evening walks are safest, as it's cooler.


Dogs suffering from heatstroke urgently need to have their body temperature lowered gradually for the best chance of survival. This a true emergency and you should take them to the nearest vet as soon as possible.

Always call your vet for advice in this situation. Early things that you may be advised to do to help include:

Move the dog to a shaded and cool area
Immediately pour cool (not cold to avoid shock) water over the dog. Tap water (15-16°C) has been found to be the most effective at cooling dogs with heat-related illnesses.  In a true emergency, any water is better than nothing.
Wet towels placed over the dog can worsen the condition, trapping heat.  In mild cases towels can be placed under the dog, but never over, and in a true emergency water immersion or pouring water with air movement is ideal.
Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water
Continue to pour cool water over the dog until their breathing starts to settle, but not too much that they start shivering
Dogs that have lost consciousness will stop panting, despite still having a very high temperature, these dogs require urgent aggressive cooling as a priority. 
Throughout the treatment of heatstroke try to avoid pouring water on or near your dog's head, as there is a risk of them inhaling water which could lead to drowning, especially for flat-faced and unconscious dogs.

If in ANY doubt contact your nearest vet immediately.

With a few sensible precautions in place our canine friends can enjoy the summer too!

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