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Dog Heat Stroke


Aah, a fun day in the sun.

Long walks on the beach and enjoying a refreshing cocktail on a hot summer day. Who doesn’t enjoy it?

Well, your dog may not! The hot temperatures on those summer days can be dangerous for him. When your dog is exposed to hot temperatures, he risks getting a heat stroke. A heat stroke is a potentially life-threatening situation so please pay close attention throughout this lesson.

What's a heat stroke?

Just like us, dogs have a way to expel excessive heat from their body, thus lowering their body temperature. But unlike humans, who expel excessive heat through their skin by sweating, dogs primarily pant.

They also lose some heat through their paws, but that’s minimal.

A heat stroke, also called heat exhaustion or hyperthermia, happens when your dog gets overheated and is unable to regulate his own body heat. In other words, your dog is hot and he can’t cool himself down by panting.

There are a few stages of heat exhaustion and the mildest form can be treated at home. However, more severe cases can be very dangerous. They lead to high fever, loss of consciousness, organ failure and even death.

Lucky for you, heat strokes are very easy to prevent, even during those hot summer days!

How to prevent dog heat stroke?

As you know by now, heat exhaustion can lead to dangerous medical conditions.

In order to keep your dog happy and healthy during the summer, you should keep an eye on him and make sure he is not exposed to too much heat.

ALWAYS have enough fresh water available for him, wherever you go. If he spends a lot of time outside, you should also provide some shelter where he can relax in the shade.

It is recommended to get your dog inside on the hottest moments of the day.

To walk or not to walk?

Avoid going for long walks on hot days. Instead, go to lake or the creek nearby.

Firstly, he can swim! Secondly, swimming is a good way to cool down your dog on a warm day.

He will thank you! If you don’t have a body of water nearby and you still want to go for a walk, wait until after the peak hours.

Avoid hills and rough terrain and monitor your dog’s behavior.

How to keep a dog cool inside the house

So, what about at home?

Keep your house or apartment cool. I know that the electricity bills rise quickly when you have your air conditioning running, so you’re tempted to switch it off when you leave the house.

Don’t do that when you leave your dog at home! It doesn’t have to run at full capacity, but make sure that the temperature inside the house doesn’t rise above 80°F/26°C.

Additionally, you can set up a few electric fans to keep the air moving.

What about the car?

Did you know that every year hundreds of dogs die in a car?

And no, not by a car accident but because of heat exhaustion!

You should NEVER leave your dog inside a parked car on a hot day. Not even with the windows rolled down.

Did you know that:

The temperature inside a car rises up to 100°F / 38°C within 10 minutes on a 80°F/26°C warm day?

It rises up to 110°F / 44°C within 10 minutes on a 90°F/32°C warm day?

The temperature inside a car rises up to 130°F / 55°C within 30 minutes on a 90°F/32°C warm day?


If you absolutely need to take your dog, you have 2 options.

Option 1: You take him out of the car and take him with you.

Option 2: You leave the car running with the air conditioning at full capacity.

Dog heat stroke symptoms

When your dog has been engaging in hard physical activity or the environmental temperatures are very high, observe your dog carefully.

Watch for these common symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke:

Mild heat stroke in dogs

Mild heat stroke symptoms can come pretty fast, especially on hot days. Watch out for:

Excessive panting - This is one of the earliest signs and your dog's behavior should be monitored at all times. If you have a working dog or you play sports together with your furry friend, it's important to understand when it gets too much. Even on cooler days dogs can get overheated when they are engaged in demanding physical activities.

Excessive drooling - If your dog is drooling more than usual, it's a clear sign of heat exhaustion. Check if the drool is more sticky than usual. If the drool is very sticky, it means that there is less moisture in it. 

Extremely overheated dogs

As the condition gets worse, so do the symptoms. Extremely overheated dogs are likely to show the following clinical signs:

Difficulty breathing

High body temperature – Your dog’s body temperature should not exceed 103°F / 39.4°C

Dehydration – This is easily identified by visible tiredness and dry mucous membranes. (Dry gums).

The skin - When the dog gets severely dehydrated, their skin becomes less flexible. An easy way to check this, is to lift the skin of the dog’s neck. It should fall back in place immediately.

Increased heart rate – You can check your dog’s pulse by placing your hand next to their elbow, on the chest. The normal heart beat of a dog depends on their size.

Smaller dogs have a higher pulse compared to bigger dogs.


Less urination – A lack of urination is a typical sign of dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Vomiting and/or diarrhea

Check the gums – Check if they have a different color. They should be pink-ish and when you push them, the white should disappear fast.

No balance and/or dizziness – For example when he has troubles walking up or down the stairs or bumps into furniture or walls.

Weakness and lethargy

In very extreme cases, your dog dies of heat stroke. 

Clear sign of dog heatstroke 

The symptoms listed here are easy to recognize and they should raise a red flag immediately! If you notice your dog’s behavior is abnormal during hot summer days, keep a close eye on him and don’t take the signals lightly. 

Remember: Keeping your dog safe and healthy SHOULD be your No.1 priority. If you suspect that your dog suffered a heat stroke, call your vet immediately.

Dog heat stroke treatment - How to cool down a dog

Heat stroke dog treatment - How to stop heat stroke in dogs

I've you've been going through the previous lessons, you may have noticed that I like to do my research on Google before I start writing. I do that simply because it gives me a clear view on the questions that are on people's minds. The two search terms "heat stroke dog treatment" and "How to stop heat stroke in dogs" are both searched around 1000 times per month. Yes, that's more than 30 times a day!

I was baffled by those numbers, and it turns out it's quite a big topic on the internet. Other popular search terms were are "How to treat heat stroke in dogs" and "heat stroke dog treatment". So yes, it seems like there is quite a demand. 

What did surprise me, is that I didn't find the search term "dog heat stroke first aid". But, I guess that's what people are actually looking for. So, what is the first aid treatment for overheated dogs? If you ever find your dog in that kind of situation, follow these steps:

Step 1: Take your dog to a cooler area (preferably indoors) immediately.

Step 2: Lower the body temperature by wetting him / her thoroughly with cool water. Do not use ice cold water! It seems counter intuitive, but over cooling can actually be just as dangerous as heat exhaustion. Normal cold tap water is ok.

Step 3: Apply more cool water around the ears and paws. This helps reduce fever and helps to reduce the body temperature quicker.

Step 4: Put him / her in front of a fan to dry off. If you have a pet thermometer close by (it should be in your doggy first aid kit), check the temperature every few minutes.

Note: don’t use a glass thermometer which your dog might bite and break.

Once the temperature drops to 103 degrees (39.4 degrees Celsius), remove the fan and stop applying water.

Step 5: As he continues to cool down, provide him with small amounts of lukewarm or cool water to drink. However, DON’T force water into the dog’s mouth. And again, no ice cold water, and no ice!

Step 6: Call your veterinarian as soon as possible. Even if your dog seems to be recovering, they may need to be monitored for shock, dehydration, kidney failure, and other possible complications of heat exhaustion.

Your vet will be able to advise you about next steps.

Dog heat stroke recovery

If your dog experienced a mild form of hyperthermia, and you followed the steps above, you'll find that the general condition improved. Your dog will stop panting, start eating and drinking and goes back to being how he or she was before. So basically, when the mild signs of dehydration disappear, it should all be fine. 

However, in most cases it is advised to give your dog a quick health check at the vet's office. There may be some underlaying issues related to the heatstroke and you'll want to detect those before they get out of hand. Some of those may be organ damage, kidney failure and other extremely dangerous health issues. 

Dog acting weird after heat stroke

Right, all seemed fine when you helped your dog. It looks like he or she recovered from the heat stroke and all is well. But suddenly your dog starts to show strange behavior. What now? Well, I'd like to point to the previous sections where I noted the fact that there may be some underlaying issues, even if your dogs seems healthy again. Neurological disorders, as well as other diseases and illnesses may developed as a result of a heat stroke.  

How long does heat stroke last in dogs?

This fully depends on the condition your dog is in. If the heat stroke was very mild, he or she will be recovered in a relatively short time. If your dog is in a bad condition and needs to stay at the hospital, it can take a few days or even much longer before your friend can come back home. In many cases your dog will receive IV fluids and will be monitored for an extended period of time. If your dog was in a bad condition, he or she may have developed permanent health issues and may need a special diet or medication.

Long term effects of heat stroke in dogs 

As I mentioned earlier, your dog may develop severe health issues, including organ damage, neurological damage and so on. Therefore, the long term effects of heat stroke in dogs can extend to the rest of the dog's life. He or she may require special medical attention, a special diet or other forms of treatment.

Dog breeds that overheat easily 

Generally speaking, short-nosed dogs are more likely to get overheated because of their decreased breathing abilities. This is due to the fact that their air ways are less open (because of the shape of their nostrils and elongated soft palate).

Dog breeds such as French Bulldog, English Bulldog, Chow Chow,, Bullmastiff, pugs, etc.. are very prone to overheating. If you have one of these dog breeds you should learn to monitor the signs and behavior. 

Contrary to what many people believe, dogs with a thick, furry coat are not necessarily more prone to overheating. In fact, their thick fur acts as an insulator, both for cold and hot weather! 

That was it for today! 

Thank you for staying with me, I hope you've learned some useful information. 

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