Heatstroke in dogs is a serious condition that turns life threatening in little time. During hot months, we have to be vigilant, watching for and preventing overheating. Every case of canine heatstroke is an emergency.

Why it Happens

Heatstroke, also called heat prostration, occurs during dogs’ exposure to hot or humid environments with little or no relief. It can happen on a hot/humid day where a dog has no access to shade or cool temperatures.

Temperatures don’t have to be extreme to cause heat prostration. Lack of shade or a predisposition such as with obesity, particular breeds, or certain medical conditions can make dogs susceptible.

Fatal heatstroke is also a major problem in the unfortunate instances when owners leave dogs inside vehicles.  According to the Stanford University School of Medicine, the interior of vehicles can reach deadly temperatures even on cool days.


When dogs display signs of heatstroke, quick action is imperative. Here are some symptoms to watch for:

  • Lethargy or confusion
  • Sticky, dry gums
  • Sunken eyes
  • Thick saliva
  • Excessive panting or trouble breathing paired with restlessness
  • Seizure


If you notice any signs of heatstroke, get your dog into a cool space, out of the sun and heat. Immediate medical attention is necessary to ward off organ damage and death. While phoning your veterinarian or emergency clinic, begin cooling your pet.

Use fans and cool water to lower the temperature. Wet ears and paws. Towels wet with cool tap water can help when placed on the nape of the neck, groin, and underarms. However, only do this with a fan blowing on the towels to prevent heat from being trapped under the towels. Offer water, but don’t force an overheated pet to drink.

Even if symptoms subside, an emergency visit is necessary because of the risk of internal organ damage caused by heatstroke.


The best treatment is always prevention. Here’s what you need to know to keep your pups safe:

  • Never leave dogs inside a vehicle for any length of time, no matter how cool or overcast the day seems. Cracked windows are not enough to keep pets out of danger.
  • Provide unlimited access to clean water.
  • Provide plenty of shade.
  • Bring dogs inside to enjoy the air conditioning, especially when temperatures are extreme.
  • Only walk/exercise dogs during cool times of day.
  • Keep up with wellness checks that can uncover predispositions to overheating.

Like us, our pups enjoy beautiful summer days. However, without proper precautions, heat can turn deadly. Keep dogs safe and comfortable with water, shade, and cool relief. If you notice your dog is overheated, get him or her into a cool space and seek immediate medical attention.




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