Heatstroke in Dogs

May 30, 2016

This nice weather is the perfect time for us to get out more with our four-legged friends and have some fun. One of the big risks of being outdoors during the summer, though, is heatstroke.  Dogs do not have the same self-cooling abilities as humans and so they overheat much easier. Dogs cool themselves by panting. Breeds with ‘pug-like’ faces are more susceptible to heatstroke even in moderate temperatures.

Signs of heatstroke
While out and about in the hot weather with your dog, some of the signs of heatstroke to look out for so you can act accordingly are: Rapid panting, dizziness, weakness, diarrhea, and/or vomiting. Other signs include bright red tongue, foaming at the mouth, and thick saliva.

What to do
If your dog is showing signs of heatstroke, follow these steps: First, remove your dog from the heat by taking him indoors or finding a heavily shaded area and then call your vet. You should then help your dog cool off by wetting him with cold water (lukewarm for small dogs). Add a fan to increase air flow. NOTE*** using water that is too cold can cause other serious medical conditions (such as shock) and can be counterproductive. If you can, check your dog’s temperature every five minutes until his body temperature is 103F. At this point, you should stop the cooling process and wrap your dog in a sheet or blanket to stop him from losing any more heat. Provide access to drinking water but do not force-feed your dog.


– Schedule walks in the mornings or evenings when it’s cooler
– Keep dogs who are older, obese, or have heart conditions or breathing problems cool and in the shade
– Make sure your dog has access to drinking water and shade at all times
– DO NOT leave your dog in a parked car, no matter how long you will be gone. It can reach 150F within 15 minutes
– If possible, try to avoid places with excess concrete or asphalt. Check the ground, if it’s too hot for your palm, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws
– Wet down your dog or let him swim (if you have access to a pool)
– Restrict exercise
– Only muzzle your dog if absolutely necessary. If muzzled, you must cool your dog off as he will not be able to pant and cool himself
– Move your dog to a cool part of the house. Freeze a bottle of water or place ice in a Ziploc bag and wrap it in a cloth so your dog may lie on it

Dogs with heatstroke often recover without complications. Severe heatstroke, however, can cause organ damage, which will need ongoing care and call for special dietary restrictions. After suffering from heatstroke, the chances for your dog getting it again will increase, so be sure to take extra care. Following these steps can ensure that you and your dog can be safe and have fun this summer.

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Resources: PetEducation and PetTech