Heatstroke in dogs: the signs and what to do

We’ve already had some really warm days this summer and we’re hoping that the sun is set to stick around for a while longer. Sadly, the flip side of hot weather is the risk of heatstroke in dogs, so we’ve put together this guide so that you can look out for the signs and know what to do if it happens to your four-legged friend…

What is heatstroke?

This is a life-threatening condition whereby the body temperature increases to the point where organ failure and even death can occur.

Why do dogs get heatstroke?

What do we humans do when the temperatures soar? We remove our layers! Dogs obviously can’t do this, and as they are unable to sweat like humans in order to cool down, it’s harder for them to regulate their body temperature.

It’s important to also note that while heatstroke is more prevalent during hot spells, dogs can also develop it if they exercise excessively in warm weather, or if they are left in a humid environment that is poorly ventilated (including a car).

Are there certain dogs more susceptible to heatstroke?

Higher risk dogs include:


    • Overweight dogs


    • Dogs with especially thick or heavy coats


    • Dogs with pre-existing conditions such as heart or lung problems


    • Senior dogs and puppies.


Early signs of heatstroke in dogs

    • Panting which progresses to distressed or noisy breathing as the heatstroke worsens


    • Restlessness or agitation, pacing, seeking shade or water


    • Drooling


    • Red gums or tongue


    • Increased heart rate


    • Vomiting or diarrhoea


Advanced signs of heatstroke in dogs

    • Lethargy


    • Confusion


    • Weakness or collapse


    • Seizures


What to do if you suspect heatstroke

Acting immediately can save your pet’s life so your first course of action should include:

    • Taking your dog somewhere cool, ideally in a well ventilated area with the use of a fan


    • Offering them small amounts of water


    • Pouring or hosing them with COOL water (not ice-cold).


    • Draping a wet towel over them which should be changed every 5-minutes as it will be ineffective as it warms up.


    • Once these steps have been taken speak to your vet who will give you further advice and will ask you to come in for a full assessment. Make sure when travelling to the vet to bring a second person if possible so they can carry on using some of the above tips while your dog is in the car.


Can I prevent heatstroke happening to my dog?

While you can’t completely prevent it happening, you can certainly minimise the risk by following these guidelines, especially during the summer months:

    • Make sure your pet always has access to a cool shaded area, both indoors and outside


    • Restrict exercise on warm days (dogs should be walked early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the hottest part of the day, and not at all if temperatures are too warm).


    • Bring a water bottle on walks.


    • Remember that pavements can burn paws! If the pavement is too hot for you to hold your hand on, then it’s too hot for your pet to walk on.


    • Never leave your dog in a car or a hot room (i.e. conservatories and similar).


    • Make sure your dog always has drinking water available.


    • Keep coats short in the summer if they are a breed that is able to be clipped.


Make sure you bookmark this blog and share it with friends so that your furry friends can stay as safe as possible this summer. We are a dog-friendly site here at Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, and we love meeting your best friends, but we do ask that you do not bring your dogs for a visit on hot days. We have a temperature gauge by our front gate, and if it reaches the maximum temperature that dogs can be comfortably outside, we will have to refuse admission to your dog, so do take note before you set off to visit us on the heat situation.


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