Heat Stroke In Dogs - How to Recognize, Treat and Prevent

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Heat Stroke - The Scary Truth
What is it and how to treat it quickly and effectively.

By: Shawna Stone, CVT


Hotdogs are great.  Hot DOGS, not so much.  Heat stroke is scary and can be life threatening if not recognized quickly and treated immediately.  Mild cases are possible to treat at home, but know your dog and the signs of heat stroke so that you are aware of when to take your dog to the veterinarian.  If it is anything but the basic, beginning of heat stroke that you catch immediately, veterinary intervention should be considered.  It is not worth saving a few dollars when your dog's life is involved. 

What is it

  • Hyperthermia, which basically means excessive body temperature that evolves into a deadly cascade of events that can lead to death.
  • Excessive body heat results when the body can no longer dissipate the excess heat, which results in increasing body temperature.  This can result from a hot day, physical exercise, illness, being left in a car/unventilated room or a combination of all of four.
  • According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, it leads to a systemic inflammatory response that can result in multiple organ failure and DIC, which means the blood fails to clot and the pet bleeds to death. 

The Symptoms

    • Normal body temp in dogs is 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat stroke is typically associated with temperatures of 106 degrees or more.
    • Excessive panting & drooling.
    • Dehydration - feel your dog's gums.  Are they wet or sticky? Sticky means dehydration.
    • Not urinating.
    • Rapid heart rate/pulse.
    • Black tarry stools.
    • Seizures, muscle tremors and unconsciousness.
    • RED gums. - See below for what this may look like.

Normal Pink gums 

RED gums (and unhealthy teeth) - DANGER!!



  • Immediate treatment is vital to recovery!
  • Remove dog from heat if you can.  Shade if you are outside, on cool concrete if you can find it.
  • If you can move to an air-conditioned car or room, do it. Fans can also be used to encourage air circulation around the dog.
  • Take your dog's temperature if you can, so you know when it is starting to return to normal.  When it reaches 103 degrees Fahrenheit, stop cooling procedures.
  • Do not use ice or very cold water.  Cooling too quickly results in blood vessels constricting to the point that heat can no longer dissipate, making the heat stroke worse.
  • Cool your dog SLOWLY with appropriate cooling techniques:
    • Spray down the dog's body with cool but not cold water.
    • Wet towels to abdomen, armpits and groin. Do not cover your dog with wet towels because this will hold the heat in.
    • Soak paws in water-in a bowl, wrapped in wet towels or just pour water on them.
    • Allow and encourage your dog to slowly drink cool, but not cold water.
    • Be calm for your dog, no matter what happens.  Your dog looks to you for guidance.  If you are panicky and scared, your dog thinks he needs to be as well. 

Be decisive and do what needs to be done, if you suspect heatstroke, begin cooling procedures immediately. You cannot do anything wrong in this case by slowly helping your dog cool off. If you suspect it is heat stroke, calmly take your gradually cooling pooch to the nearest veterinary professionals for evaluation.  So much better to be safe than heart-wrenchingly sorry. 


  • Know your dog and it's personal and breed limits. A geriatric bulldog should probably not be out jogging on most days but especially a hot one.  A giant breed over-weight black dog should probably not go on a 10-mile hike in the mountains on a warm summer day.
  • Be prepared for hot days so that you can keep your dog cool from the start.  Have more water than you can possibly need and bowls they will easily drink out of.
  • If you know it is going to be really hot, consider a cooling jacket or cooling mat and have them on hand.  Click on the links to purchase one of these from our store and save 10% with promocode CoolDog.  Isn't it worth $25 to $40 to save your dog's life?

PS: Do you have K9 health insurance?  A small monthly premium is worth it's weight in gold when you have an emergency!  We pay $50/month for 2 large breeds and a $750 deductible.  Anything above $750 that is not basic wellness care is covered at 90%, which is priceless, especially with big dogs.  One prescription NSAID for the black dog pictured in this article - $445.85 for a 90 day supply.  Antibiotics for a UTI for same dog, $300+.  We have heard many good things about Trupanion but we are currently with Embrace and they have been awesome!  I invite you to check them out:Embrace Pet Insurance


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