Quick Links | Paws & Claws


What is heat stroke?

Heatstroke is a condition caused by body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures. This most serious form of heat injury can occur if body temperature rises to 104 ºF (40 ºC) or higher. Heat Stroke is an emergency and requires immediate treatment. Dog can recover within an hour if given prompt first aid and veterinary care.

Why are dogs more prone to heat stroke?

Because dogs do not sweat (except to a minor degree through their foot pads), they do not tolerate high environmental temperatures as well as humans do. Dogs depend upon panting to exchange warm air for cool air. But when body temperature goes to an extreme, cooling by panting is not an efficient process.

When can heat stroke happen?

Common situations that can set the stage for heat stroke in dogs include:

  • Being left in a car in hot weather
  • Exercising strenuously in hot, humid weather
  • Being a branchycephalic (snub nosed) breed, especially a bulldog, pug or Pekingese
  • Suffering from a heart or lung disease that interferes with efficient breathing
  • Being muzzled while walking
  • Suffering from high fever or seizures
  • Being confined in small and less ventilated kennel
  • Being confined without shade and fresh water in hot weather

What are the signs of heat stroke?

A dog suffering from heat stroke will display several signs:

  • Rapid breathing or panting
  • Excessive drooling (ptyalism)
  • Thick and sticky saliva
  • Increased body temperature above 104ºF
  • Production of only small amounts of urine or no urine
  • Bright red tongue
  • Red or pale gums
  • Weak and dizzy
  • Bloody vomit or diarrhea
  • Ataxia – Wobbly, uncoordinater drunken gait or movement
  • Seizures
  • Shock
  • Coma – Unconsciousness in which the dog cannot be awakened

How will I know whether my dog had a heat stroke?

Heat stroke begins with heavy panting and difficulty in breathing. The tongue and mucous membranes appear bright red. The saliva is thick and tenacious and the dog often vomits. The rectal temperature rises to 104° to 110 °F (40° to 43.3°C). The dog becomes progressively unsteady and passes bloody diarrhea. As shock sets in, the lips and mucous membranes turn grey. Doges tend to be collapse, seizures, coma, and may result into death if immediate treatment is not given.

How to treat heat stroke?

  • Cool down your dog
  • Apply plenty of cold water or ice over head and body. Keep a cold damp cloth over the body.
  • Let your dog lick ice.
  • Take your dog to your vet immediately.

Emergency measures to cool the dog must begin at once. Move the dog out of the source of heat, preferably into an air-conditioned building. Take his rectal temperature every ten minutes. Mild cases may be resolved by moving the dog into a cool environment.

If the rectal temperature is above 104°F, begin rapid cooling by spraying the dog with a garden hose or immersing him in a tub of cool water (not ice water) for up to two minutes. Alternatively, place the wet dog in front of an electric fan. Cool packs applied to the groin area may be helpful, as well as wiping his paws off with cool water. Monitor his rectal temperature and continue the cooling process until the rectal temperature fall below 103°F (39°C). At this point, stop the cooling process and dry the dog. Further cooling may induce hypothermia and shock.

Following an episode of heat stroke, take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

What will the vet do?

Heat stroke can be associated with laryngeal edema. This seriously worsens the breathing problem and may require oxygenation. An emergency tracheostomy may require. An injection of cortisone before the onset of respiratory distress may prevent this problem.

What will happen if I leave my dog untreated?

Other consequences of hyperthermia include kidney failure, spontaneous bleeding, irregular heartbeats and seizures. These complications can occur few hours or days later.

How can I prevent heat stroke?

Dogs with airway disease and breathing problems should be kept indoors with air conditioning or at least a fan during periods of high heat and humidity.

  • Never leave your dog in a car with windows closed even if the car is parked in the shade.
  • When travelling by car, crate the dog in a well-ventilated dog carrier, or better an open wire cage.
  • Restrict exercise in hot weather.
  • Always provide shade and plenty of cool water for the dog.
  • Offer cooler surfaces outdoors for dogs to lie on, such as wooden planks, mats or grass.