Heat Stroke in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

Heat stroke is a serious and life-threatening condition. Read on to learn how to prevent, detect, and treat heat stroke in dogs.

Heat stroke is a serious and life-threatening condition. Read on to learn how to prevent, detect, and treat heat stroke in dogs.

Summer means vacation, relaxation, and fun, but  long summer days also bring the risk of heat exposure to dogs. The consequences of a dog overheating can be very serious.

This guide will provide you with information on the causes, signs and symptoms of heat stroke, as well as treatment and tips to avoid heat stroke in you dog.

Heat stroke, or hyperthermia, can occur quickly and the result can be deadly. By understanding how dogs keep cool we can ensure our dogs don’t overheat, so we can all enjoy those dog days of summer to the fullest.

What Is Heat Stroke in Dogs?

Unlike us humans, dogs don’t respond to heat in the same way. When humans get hot we begin to sweat which works to cool our bodies down. However, dogs are unable to sweat and eliminate heat from their bodies by panting and breathing.

When panting isn’t enough, a dog’s body temperature rises, and they can experience heat stroke, which can become fatal if not treated immediately.

Normally, a dog’s body temperature ranges between 100.2° and 102.5°F. When a dog’s body temperature increases past 104°, he enters the danger zone. With a body temperature above 106°, heat stroke can happen.

If the body temperature reaches 109°F, his heart, brain, liver, and kidneys can shut down. A dog who experiences heat stroke can go into shock and may suffer irreversible organ damage.

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke in Dogs

The effects of heat stroke are devastating, and in all cases, even in suspected heat stroke, immediate treatment is needed as every second makes a significant difference to the outcome.

Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs

Heat Stroke in Dogs

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke in dogs are two stages of the same thing. Both are due to dangerously elevated body temperature.

Heat exhaustion is the first stage when the body temperature is elevated only a couple of degrees above a dog’s normal body temperature.

Fortunately, it’s not difficult to spot signs of overheating in dogs. There are a number of symptoms of heat exhaustion in dogs to look out for. They slow down, their tongues hang out, and they may even search for a spot in the shade.

The early signs of heat exhaustion in dogs are some or all of the following:

  • Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Drooling, often very thick saliva
  • Confusion or disorientation

As the condition worsens, symptoms progress to include:

  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Change in gum color (dark red, pale, purple or blue)
  • Stupor or collapsing

How Do You Treat Heat Stroke in Dogs?

If a heated related emergency happens, remember to stay calm but act decisively.

Do not immediately go to the veterinarian as a few minutes without treatment may have serious consequences. In fact, every second makes a significant difference to the outcome. The sooner your dog is treated, the better the prognosis.

Lower your dog’s body temperature gradually by immersing him in a bath tub of cool water or soaking him with a hose. Hold bags of ice or cool wet towels against the neck, head and groin.

Immediately move your pet into an air conditioned or shaded location and wet his body down with towels presoaked with cool water. Give him small amounts of cold drinking water.

Repeat this process until his temperature drops to 103°F. Once the dog is cooled, seek immediate veterinary care.

Remember to avoid ice baths, ice packs, or cooling your pet too quickly. These practices can cause the blood vessels to constrict which actually slows heat loss.

When treated in time, the prognosis for heat exhaustion and heat stroke in dogs is very good. However, if symptoms persist for too long before intervention, the prognosis is not as hopeful.

How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

Never leave your dog inside a parked car, even in the shade or with the windows cracked. If the temperature outside is 75° it only takes 10 minutes for the temperature in your car to reach 100°.

Avoid walking your dog during peak temperature hours. In summer, the hottest part of the day is typically 2-6 p.m. Do walk your dog before or shortly after sunrise or long after sunset, when temperatures dip into “tolerable.”

Keep your house cool. When it’s hot outside, keep your dog inside as much as possible during the day. If you need the air conditioning, chances are your dog does, too.

A dip in cool water is one of the best ways for dogs to cool off. Wet your dog with a hose, or provide water play like a sprinkler or a wading pool.

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.


Heat is definitely not a dog’s best friend, since dogs lack the ability to cool themselves well in extreme weather conditions.

All dogs are at risk of developing heat stroke. However, some dogs are at a higher risk of heat stroke than others, including very old or young dogs, dogs with thick, heavy coats or dogs with very short flat faces like pugs and bulldog types.

Remember, our job is to make sure they have the opportunity to cool off. With a little caution, you and your dog can enjoy the dog days all summer long.