What is heat stroke in dogs?

What is heat stroke in dogs?

Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that’s brought on by a sudden rise in body temperature. It commonly affects pets who are exercised outside on a hot day or are carelessly left in a car or conservatory during warm weather. Our emergency vets see hundreds of cases of heat stroke in dogs every year and, tragically, many of these prove to be fatal.

Read our advice articles below, all written by vets, for help and support on heat stroke and some of the conditions relating to it.

Veterinary advice articles
Signs & symptoms

Signs & symptoms

Spotting the signs of heat stroke early, and seeking emergency treatment, can massively increase your dog’s chance of survival.

In the early stages of heat stroke, your dog is likely to appear restless and distressed. They may also pant heavily and drool. As their condition worsens they will begin to lose coordination and eventually collapse.  It’s worth noting that normal rectal temperature for dogs is around 38.6°C (101.5°F) to 38.9°C (102°F) and anything above this is abnormal. Other signs of heat stroke include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Racing heart
  • Overheating (skin hot to touch)
  • Glassy eyes
  • Unsteady on feet
  • Gums turning a bluish-purple or bright red colour
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Collapse

If you spot any of these signs please contact your vet straight away or, out of hours, your nearest Vets Now pet emergency clinic or 24/7 hospital.

At-a-glance infographics

At-a-glance infographics

Diagnosis & treatment

Diagnosis & treatment

If you suspect your dog has heat stroke call your vet or, out of hours, your nearest Vets Now as they will be in the best position to offer advice on your next steps. They may advise you to slowly cool your dog’s head and body using wet towels or tepid spray before offering small amounts of water to drink. You should never immerse your dog in an ice bath or freezing cold water as cooling them too quickly can do more harm than good.

On arrival at the vet, your dog will receive a physical examination and undergo a series of tests to determine the treatment required. If their condition is severe they will require urgent, intensive care. Your dog may be placed on a drip and given supplemental oxygen depending on whether they’re suffering breathing difficulties. Once their temperature begins to fall and their breathing is under control further diagnostic tests will be carried out.

Case studies and news articles

Case studies and news articles

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Walking dogs in hot weather could end in tragedy, warn vets

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  • heatstroke
  • Heatstroke causes
  • Heatstroke warning
  • Summer

Vets issue ‘dogs die in hot cars’ warning as temperatures soar

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  • heatstroke
  • Heatstroke causes
  • Heatstroke warning

Boston Terrier almost dies from heat stroke after playing in the snow

  • Dogs
  • heatstroke
  • Heatstroke case study
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Warning for pet owners as bulldog almost dies from heat stroke

  • Dogs
  • heatstroke
  • Heatstroke case study
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  • Summer
Prevention

Prevention

The simplest way to ensure your dog doesn’t succumb to heat stroke is preventing it from happening in the first place. Our article on how to keep dogs cool explains some methods for this in more detail but, in general, you should:

  • Never exercise your dog in the middle of a hot day
  • Always provide a cool, shaded area for your dog to relax in
  • Make sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh drinking water
  • Never, ever leave your dog in a parked car or hot, stuffy room, even for a short time
  • Don’t overdo exercise during warm spells, regardless of the time of day
Hot weather hints and tips

Hot weather hints and tips

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26 top tips for keeping your dog or puppy safe in the summer

  • Dogs
  • heatstroke
  • Heatstroke prevention
  • Heatstroke tips
  • Summer

Praise for vets and vet nurses who saved the life of overheating guide dog

  • Dogs
  • heatstroke
  • Heatstroke tips
  • Pet Emergency

Why dog owners should avoid pavements and fake grass on hot days

  • Dogs
  • Heatstroke tips
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11 tips from a vet on how to keep dogs cool in hot weather

  • Dogs
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Prognosis

Prognosis

Heat stroke can lead to organ failure very quickly. As a result, the survival rate for dogs diagnosed with the condition is poor. One of the largest studies ever carried out into the prognosis and outcome of dogs with heat stroke showed a mortality rate of 50%. Another study into heat-induced illness in dogs found that those cooled before arriving at the vet had a much lower mortality rate (19%) than those not cooled (49%).