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Heatstroke in Dogs: Common Signs and how to treat it

Updated: Mar 29

While summertime is the best part of the year to go out with your dogs and engage in outdoor activities, it is also the time when they are most vulnerable to heatstroke if you're not careful. With record-high temperatures occurring around the world, it is important to recognize when your dog is overheating and prevent them from being affected by it.

What is Heatstroke?

Dogs have sweat glands on their paws, but they do not contribute significantly to overall body heat loss. Their main ways of losing heat come through panting and blood vessel expansion. They evaporate moisture through their tongues, nasal passages, and the linings of their lungs, and also use the process of vasodilation which involves the blood vessels in the face and ears rising closer to the body's surface to cool down. A dog's normal body temperature is around 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit but once its internal temperature goes beyond 105 degrees, they begin to experience early symptoms of heat exhaustion, which can eventually lead to heatstroke.

Signs of Heatstroke

Heatstroke in dogs can be life-threatening if not treated properly, so it is essential to look out for signs of your dog overheating to remedy it before it gets too serious. Early signs to look out for include:

  • Heavy panting

  • Rapid breathing

  • Excessive drooling

  • Bright red gums

  • Dry mucous membranes

  • High heart rate

  • Skin that is hot to the touch

As the dog continues to be exposed to excessive heat and their condition worsens, more severe symptoms to look out for include:

  • Signs of shock

  • Pale Mucous Membranes

  • White or blue gums

  • Very rapid heart rate

  • A drop in blood pressure

  • Dilate pupils

  • Irregular pulse

  • muscle tremors

  • Lethargy

  • Unwilling to move

  • Urinate or defecate uncontrollably

  • Become comatose

Reasons why heatstroke happens

Heatstroke mainly occurs during the hottest parts of the year, and many contributing factors can make your dog more likely to experience it. These include:

  • Age: Older and younger dogs are at higher risk

  • Weight: Obese dogs are more likely to do poorly in high-heat

  • Environment: Confined spaces such as locked cars are the most common causes of heatstroke

  • Water: Restricted access to water

  • Medical: Hyperthyroidism, Cardiac disease, laryngeal paralysis, and Tracheal collapse can contribute to heatstroke

  • Breed: Long-haired and short-nosed dogs (brachycephalic breeds) are more susceptible

How to treat Heartstroke

If you notice your dog displaying any of the symptoms listed above, then you must tend to them immediately and try your best to lower its temperature. You can achieve this through simple actions such as:

  • Carrying the dog to a well-ventilated and cool area

  • Using a fan to blow cold air on them

  • Spraying cool water (not cold to avoid shock) on their underside

  • Wet towels can be placed on the dog's underside, but never over their backs to avoid trapping heat

  • Allow them to drink a small amount of water

  • Avoid pouring water near your dog's head, as accidental inhalation could lead to drowning

  • A dog that has lost consciousness will stop panting even though it is overheating, meaning that it requires urgent cooling and treatment

If you can, take your dogs' temperature. If their internal temperature is still above 105 degrees F, try cooling them down, but not below 103 degrees F to avoid a sudden drop in temperature. Heatstroke is an emergency that can be fatal if left untreated, so you must bring your dog to a veterinarian if they are experiencing overheating or showing signs of heatstroke.


Prevention is the best way to treat heatstroke, so it is important to remember the weather when planning outdoor activities with your furry friends, as they will be willing to accompany you wherever you go. If your dog is experiencing heatstroke or hyperthermia, reduce their temperature the best you can to around 103 degrees Fahrenheit and contact your veterinarian for follow-up treatment steps, as it can be fatal if left untreated. If you have more questions on Heatstroke or believe that your dog is experiencing it, call us at 559-434-5470 to learn more or book an appointment with us to treat your dog. Remember to keep your dog safe when maneuvering through this hot weather.



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