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Heat Stroke In Dogs: Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention And More


Last Updated: May 23, 2024 | 4 min read | 6 Comments

This content was reviewed by veterinarian Dr. JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM.

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Hot dog in car.

Warm weather is ideal for pet owners to enjoy the outdoors with their furry best friend. It’s tempting to take Fido with you to run errands and on family trips. But what happens when your dog becomes too hot? As the temperature rises, dog owners must be aware of the potential warning signs of heat stroke in dogs and how to prevent it before it’s too late.

Facts About Dogs Overheating

Heat stroke in dogs is defined as body temperature above 105 degrees Fahrenheit. At this body temperature, the mechanisms that a dog’s body normally uses to cool off, such as panting, no longer work.

While a dog’s fur serves as protection during the winter, many dog owners may not be aware that their dog’s fur can be fatal in the heat of warmer months.

A study conducted by The Zebra website reported that 78 pets tragically died from heat stroke between 2018-20191. Luckily, there are many ways you can treat and prevent dogs from overheating so they won’t suffer the same fate.

There are certain breeds that are more susceptible to heat stroke, as well as physical characteristics that increase a dog’ risk of developing this condition. For example, pugs and bulldogs are predisposed due to their small, short skulls. Other dogs with underlying or known heart issues are also at risk.

Symptoms & Signs Of Heat Stroke in Dogs: What To Look For

Heat stroke in dogs requires immediate attention, so it’s important to know what to look for so that you can act quickly to get your dog cooled down.

Panting is a normal behavior in dogs that allows them to cool off and even express excitement during a game of catch or joy when they see you. However, owners must be aware that excessive panting is a sign that dogs may be too hot and are potentially suffering from heat stroke.

Additional Signs Of Heat Stroke In Dogs:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Dry, sticky gums
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Collapse
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Disorientation and confusion

Treatment: How To Help Your Dog During Heat Stroke

Dog fur is equivalent to a human coat. Imagine wearing a jacket when it’s 100 degrees outside. You might have a heat stroke yourself! We can take a layer off if we get too hot, but dogs can’t. So what do they do to help bring a dog’s temperature down and cool off?

By panting, dogs can cool down by circulating air through their bodies. They can also reduce their body temperature by drinking or swimming in water.

If you notice your dog excessively panting when it is hot, move your dog indoors to a cool spot immediately and provide fresh, cool water. If the panting persists, please seek the help and expertise of a trained veterinarian without delay.

If you believe that your dog is suffering from a heat stroke, you must treat it as a medical emergency and immediately seek help. Be aware of your dog’s behavior, especially in the heat, and make sure that you act quickly to help your dog cool off when you see any signs of heat stroke.

What To Do If Your Dog Is Suffering Heat Stroke

We have listed some initial steps here to cool off your dog. You should still contact your vet, who may tell you to bring your dog to the hospital right away for further treatment.

  1. Give your dog plenty of cool, fresh water to drink and add a pinch of salt to help replace minerals lost due to panting. If your dog refuses to drink, put a treat in their water bowl or add water to their food to entice them to hydrate. Check out these dog water bottles designed specifically for pups with a dispenser attached.
  2. Place a cold towel or bag of frozen vegetables on your dog’s head to help lower his body temperature, but do not leave it on for more than a few minutes at a time. Replace the cold towels frequently because they can retain heat.
  3. Run a cool bath for your dog (too cold can cause shock). Be sure to keep your dog’s head elevated to prevent aspiration pneumonia. You can also use a garden hose to cool your dog down if a bath is not an option.

When you get to your vet’s office, your vet will administer other treatments, including intravenous (IV) fluids and oxygen therapy. Your vet will continuously monitor your dog’s body temperature during treatment.

Dog Heat Stroke Prevention

Unfortunately, careless actions by dog owners can cause heat stroke too. Don’t ever leave your dog in the car while it’s hot! Leaving a dog in a hot environment is a common cause of heat stroke. If you must leave your dog in the car when it’s hot, make sure your pup receives air and make it quick.

If you must leave your pup in the car for any reason, we recommend getting a temperature monitor that keeps track of the temp inside your car and alerts your phone when it’s approaching dangerous conditions. The RV/Dog Safety Temperature & Humidity Sensor works without WiFi. After putting it inside your vehicle or RV, it uses a wireless cellular network to communicate with your smartphone when you’re away. There is also a backup rechargeable battery, and you can add up to five emails or phone numbers to get notified when the temperature hits unsafe levels.

When you are outside with your dog, keep him well hydrated and make sure that there is plenty of shade where he can go and cool off after being in the sun.

PSA Video: Call 911 If You See A Dog In A Hot Car

Remember, you are your dog’s best friend! It is your responsibility to take care of any pet that you invited into your family. Your dog depends on you to keep him safe, so make sure that you’re able to take measures to prevent heat stroke, recognize the symptoms, and understand how to best treat your dog during a heat stroke.

More Safe Fun In The Sun

Are you looking for fun things to do with your dog in the summer? Check out this travel guide. And if your pup spends a lot of time on concrete in the heat, you might consider getting booties to protect their paws from burning and sunscreen to prevent sunburn.

Sources: [1] The Zebra

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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