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How to Prevent Heatstroke in Dogs

Cool shade, rest breaks, and plenty of water can go a long way to help your pup avoid heatstroke.

Understanding not only the reasons for heatstroke in dogs but also how to cool your dog down, prepare for veterinary care, and prevent future incidents gives you better peace of mind. 


Causes of Heatstroke in Dogs

  • Being trapped in a car during hot weather (never leave dogs alone in cars)

  • Excessive strenuous activity without appropriate rest, shade, and conditioning

  • Physical impairment, which can lead to heat intolerance

  • Being housed without access to shade and water

  • Overheating during grooming

Dogs that have short snouts, small nostrils, and narrow windpipes, making it difficult for them to expel heat by panting and are more susceptible to heat intolerance.

Some of these well-known breeds include boxerschow chowsbulldogsmastiffspugs, and shih tzus.

Physical attributes could contribute to heat intolerance:

  • Obesity, which stresses the cardiopulmonary system

  • Heavy, thick coats, which increase insulation

  • Chronic conditions such as heart disease and kidney disease

  • Large breed dogs with thick hair coats such as Newfoundlands and Bernese Mountain Dogs

Signs and Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs

  • Collapse, labored breathing, or excessive panting

  • Dull mentation

  • Drooling

  • Vomiting or diarrhea (either of which may be bloody)

  • Signs of bleeding, such as bruising on the skin or gums 

  • A body temperature over 105 degrees F

  • High heart rate and respiratory rate

  • Disorientation

  • A bright red tongue that may be hanging out of the mouth more than usual

  • Abnormal gum color

  • Abdominal pain

dog's average temperature is anywhere from 99.5 to 102.5 degrees F. To safely check it and make sure they don't have a fever, use a rectal digital thermometer. A plastic baby thermometer works well, too.

What is the Outcome of a Dog with Heat Stroke/

Heat stroke varies in severity and can affect multiple organ systems, causing damage to the gastrointestinal system, kidneys, heart and lungs, and brain. It also severely impacts the body’s hemostatic system, causing prolonged clotting times and leading to hemorrhage. 

What to Do If Your Dog Has Heat Stroke / Treatments

If your dog presents any symptoms of heatstroke, bring him inside at once.

If you suspect your dog is overheating, place him or her inside where you can cool the room with air conditioning or a fan. Hosing them down with cool tepid water can help also. If you are not home, a car with AC or a cool dip in shallow water can be a lifesaver.

Seek immediate medical attention if he's non-responsive, his temperature stays above 103 degrees F, he has diarrhea or is vomiting, or he can't stop panting. Labored breathing is a sign your dog is unable to normally thermoregulate by expelling heat through the respiratory tract, Pre-cool the car and alert the veterinary clinic that you're bringing in a dog with heatstroke.

If your dog seems to calm down a bit after a few minutes in a chilled, shady area, you can administer cooling techniques as a form of first aid before taking him to the vet.

  • Soak towels in cool, not cold, water. Don't use ice, ice packs, or alcohol, as this may result in extreme overcooling. It can also constrict blood vessels and actually prevent cooling.

  • Place your dog on the towels and, if a larger pet, perhaps another around his neck. Don't cover your dog's body completely or it may trap heat.

  • Note the time, and take his temperature every couple of minutes.

  • If he's up to it, let him have little sips of water at room temperature or with a little chicken broth. However, don't force him to drink.

  • Stop cooling methods when his temperature reaches 103 degrees F. Note the time again so you can tell the vet how long your pup's temperature was elevated.

Dog heat stroke is treated with aggressive supportive care, including:

  • Fluid therapy

  • Monitoring for shock

  • Plasma transfusions to control bleeding

  • Blood pressure support

  • Gastroprotectants

  • Sometimes antibiotics if there is bacterial translocation from the intestinal tract

  • Anti-seizure medications if seizures are noted

  • Testing blood to determine more severe health complications, such as bleeding disorders, kidney failure, and organ damage

The prognosis of heat stroke is variable and depends on the severity. In some cases, it is unfortunately fatal, regardless of treatment. 

Long-Term Effects of Heatstroke in Dogs

In most cases, dogs require hospitalization for about a week to fully recover. Priority Pet Hospital indicates that some dogs need transfusions of plasma or treatment for brain swelling. Occasionally, heatstroke causes seizures in dogs and other organ complications.

How To Prevent Heatstroke in Dogs


Never leave a dog unattended in a vehicle on a hot day. The temperature in your car can rise by 20 degrees within only 10 minutes and continues to climb as time goes on, even if windows are open..


It is recommended to walk dogs only early in the morning or late in the evening during the summertime to avoid the hottest part of the day, especially if they are an at-risk breed.


Make sure your dogs have plenty of water, and if they are out in the middle of the day, make sure they have somewhere they can swim and cool down. 

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