Heatstroke in Dogs: Keep calm and cool them down

Posted by MyDogDoc on

Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia, which means a dangerously high body temperature.

We most commonly see heat stroke when dogs are trapped in a car, or those dogs that do too much exercise on a hot sunny day.

Heat stroke can be life threatening but can always be prevented!

  • Heat Stroke is an excessive high body temperature

  • Dogs cannot sweat, and cool themselves by panting

  • Dog breeds with flat faces are at a higher risk of heat stroke

  • Dogs trapped in cars can overheat within 20 minutes

Which dogs are most at risk?

All dogs are at risk of heat stroke in certain conditions. Any dog breed can easily overheat if they are exposed to hot temperatures, lack of ventilation and inadequate drinking water.

Some dogs are more at risk than others, for example:

  • Brachycephalic breeds – those with flat faces/ short snouts

  • Geriatric / Older dogs

  • Young dogs / Puppies

  • Those with underlying heath conditions

  • Those on certain medications

  • Animals that are obese or over weight

  • Animals that have thick coats

The most common causes of heat stroke are:

  • Exercise in the hot sun

  • Being left in a hot car

  • Being left in hot room such as a conservatory or caravan

  • Not having access to fresh water

On a sunny day cars can get extremely hot, reaching over 55 degrees centigrade within half an hour.

Dogs being left in hot cars make up the majority of heat stroke cases seen at the vets.


  • Fast and heavy panting

  • Barking, whining, pacing or signs of agitation

  • Excessive thirst and drinking more

  • Excessive salivating / drooling

  • Fast heartbeat and pulse

  • Dark-coloured (red or purple) mucous membranes e.g. gums or tongue

  • Glassy/ glazed eyes

  • Elevated body temperature

  • Staggering, weakness or collapse

  • Confusion

  • Unusual behaviour

  • Seizures

  • Unconsciousness

How to prevent heat stroke


  • Restrict exercise on the hot days and only walk in the cooler hours like dusk and dawn. Yes this may mean early morning get ups before the sun gets too hot!

  • Do not over exert your dogs in the hot weather by playing energetic games like ball throwing.

  • Ensure your dog gets plenty of chances to drink when out on a walk.


  • Provide plenty of water bowls with fresh, cool water at all times.

  • Do not leave your animals in hot rooms or conservatories.

  • Ensure your dog has a shaded, cool place to move to at all times.

  • When out in the garden on a very hot day, provide shallow, cool water for them to dip in, for example a paddling pool.


  • NEVER leave your dogs in hot cars, not even just for a few minutes.

  • Avoid long car journeys on hot days. Remember the boot of a car is often not as well ventilated as the front so even if you feel cool in the front seats your dog may be overheating in the back!

What should I do if my dog has heat stroke?

Heat stroke can kill very quickly if not treated promptly.

Some animals with heat stroke may be unconscious. Others may be panting heavily.

Dogs suffering from heat stroke are more likely to survive if they are cooled down immediately, before taking them to the vets.

If your dog has heat stroke call your vet immediately for advice.

  • Use a shower or hosepipe to spray your dog's body with cool water. Make sure the water comes into contact with their skin and doesn’t just run off their coat, especially in thick or double coated breeds. Do NOT use ice-cold water.

  • Thoroughly wet their belly and inside their legs.

  • Cool water can be poured on the dogs paws.

  • Move them to a shaded area or cool room, using a fan in necessary.

  • If your dog is conscious they can be encouraged to drink small amounts of cool water. Do not force them to drink if they are unconscious, confused or don’t want to drink as they may choke or vomit

  • When travelling to the vet ensure the car is as cool as possible with the air condition on or windows wide open.

Behaviour and Training Brachycephalic dogs Dog Exercise Flat face Health Heat Heatstroke Heatstroke prevention Heatstroke symptoms Heatstroke treatment Hot cars Hyperthermia Lifestyle Overweight Puppies Senior Senior dog Sun

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