Heatstroke In Dogs

Knowing the signs and how to prevent it

Heatstroke in dogsHot sunny days are the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, but it’s important to remember that even fit and healthy dogs can easily overheat in this weather. If you’re hot, just imagine what it would be like to be wearing a thick fur coat! Dogs do not tolerate high temperatures as well as humans. They are less efficient at cooling themselves down, they only have sweat glands in their feet and nose, so rely primarily on panting.

Sadly, our vets see a lot of cases of heatstroke in dogs during the summer months. It’s particularly devastating as it’s so easily avoided, and can often result in the tragic loss of a beloved pet. While all dogs are at risk in hot weather, some breeds (short faced and cold weather types) and obese animals are more sensitive.

Heatstroke takes effect very quickly and is an emergency that requires immediate recognition and prompt treatment, so make sure you know how to recognise the signs, and avoid it.

Avoid heatstroke and keep your dog cool

  • Restrict outdoor exercise, making sure they don’t play too hard and have plenty of breaks
  • Walk them early in the morning or later in the evening, and avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day
  • Make sure they have access to a cool shaded place and fresh bowl of water. You could even add some ice cubes too, but avoid adding too many and making all of the water ice cold (too cold for them to drink comfortably.)
  • Always take water on a walk
  • Spray them with cool water, hose them down, or if you have access to a safe pool or lake, take them for a swim
  • Avoid leaving them in a suntrap such as a conservatory, greenhouse, tent and never leave your dog in a parked car on a hot day, not even for a minute
  • Long-haired dogs are more likely to be affected than those with short hair, so it’s a good idea to get your dog a trim come the summer months
  • Avoid long car journeys, but if you do take your dog, keep it cool with air-conditioning on, or keeping windows open, plenty of water and regular fresh air breaks.

Know the signs - how to recognise heatstroke

  • Faster, heavier panting
  • Barking, whining or signs of agitation
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive drooling with strands of saliva hanging from the mouth
  • Increased pulse and heartbeat
  • Dark-coloured gums or tongue
  • Glassy eyes
  • Elevated body temperature (104ºF and up)
  • Staggering, weakness or collapse
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

Detecting heatstroke early and treating it promptly is essential to your dog recovering successfully. As it’s difficult to detect heat exhaustion in the early stages, it’s a good idea to learn how to take your dog’s temperature. By the time a dog is exhibiting symptoms of heatstroke, it's often too late to save them.

If you suspect your dog may have heatstroke, please seek veterinary advice immediately. Even if your dog seems better, it’s always best to get them checked out.

Please note:
Vets Now assumes no liability for the content of this page. This advice is not
a substitute for a proper consultation with a vet and is only intended as a
guide. Please contact your local veterinary practice for advice or treatment
immediately if you are worried about your pet’s health - even if they are
closed, they will always have an out of hours service available. Find out more
about what to do in an out of hours emergency.