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Heatstroke in Dogs

Posted on 13 January 2022
Heatstroke in Dogs

It’s a myth that dogs don’t have sweat glands. Your dog actually has some in their footpads to help with heat dissipation, but not nearly enough to stop them from overheating.

Instead, dogs cool themselves down by panting. But, if it’s too hot outside, or they’ve overdone it on their walk and their body temperature rises too high - they might not be able to lower their body temperature fast enough.

That’s when dogs can succumb to heatstroke.

Heatstroke can be prevented if early signs of heat stress such as excessive panting and agitation are observed and managed early. A dog's normal temperature is around 38.0°C, when it rises to 40.0°C there is a problem.

Causes of heatstroke in dogs

Any hot environment can cause heatstroke for dogs, but the most common cases involve leaving pets in hot cars, over-exertion, or failing to provide water and shade to dogs.

However certain risk factors also increase the likelihood of developing heatstroke:

  • Overweight

  • Old dogs

  • Long-haired and double-coated breeds

  • Brachycephalic breeds (flat-nosed, like pugs or bulldogs)

  • Very active or working dogs

Symptoms of heatstroke in dogs

Signs of heat stroke:

  • Excessive panting

  • Unwillingness to move around, or collapse

  • Drooling

  • Reddened gums

  • Increased heart rate

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhoea

  • Seizures

Heatstroke can be a severe and life-threatening condition for dogs.  

If your pet’s temperature rises above 40.0°C, has reddened gums, rapid heart rate, breathing distress, vomiting, mental depression, seizures or is wobbly, seek veterinary attention immediately, this is an emergency.

Tips to help a pet with heat stress:

If you believe your pet is suffering from heat stress you must remove your pet from the hot environment immediately and try to cool your pet down by using cool (not cold) water.

  • Relocate to a cool room such as an air-conditioned room

  • Cool your pet using cool (not cold) water

  • Soak wet towels in cold ice water and place them on the pet, hanging them as soon as they become warm

  • Use ice packs wrapped in a towel against the inner thigh area

  • Offer water to drink regularly

  • Turn fans on and direct at your pet

  • Use cooling mats, vests, or collars

  • Take the temperature every 5 minutes to ensure it is dropping

  • It is important not to cool your pet too quickly or below normal body temperature - avoid direct ice. Once the temperature returns to 39°C dry your pet, remove all ice packs and cold towels, and monitor


Heatstroke and Heat stress prevention for dogs:

Heatstroke and heat stress in dogs can be prevented by taking caution to the temperature and weather conditions.

Early recognition of symptoms is also key to preventing heat stress and heatstroke.

To help lower the risk:

  • Ensure your pet has access to a cool, shaded environment

  • Do not leave your pet in direct sunlight

  • Keep your pet indoors in an air-conditioned room on high alert days

  • Avoid rooms that commonly overheat such as the garage, sunny backyard

  • Avoid exercising on a hot day, even avoid throwing a toy or ball at home 

  • Never leave a pet unattended in the car, even if only for a few minutes

  • Always have fresh cool water accessible

  • Change water every few hours to keep it cool


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