Heat Stroke in Dogs

Heat Stroke in Dogs

Heat stroke or hyperthermia occurs when your dog is unable to keep its body temperature below a healthy range. Because of the way dogs breathe and sweat, they are not very efficient temperature regulators. Dogs with flat noses, such as Pugs and Bulldogs, are extremely susceptible to heat stroke.

Signs & Symptoms of Heat Stroke

Rapid panting 

Skin that is hot to the touch 



Loss of coordination 




Bright red tongue 

Dry or sticky gums

Causes of Heat Stroke

Normal rectal temperature in a companion animal is between 101.5°F to 102°F. Body temperatures above 104°F can be an indication of heat stroke. Body temperatures over 106°F are considered severe and may result in permanent damage or death. Severity of symptoms depends on duration and temperature. Although 106°F seems like a body temperature only achieved on a scorching hot day, there have been reports of severe heat stroke on moderately warm (70°F) days.

Diagnosis of Heat Stroke

Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose heat stroke upon presentation. These are some tests that your veterinarian may choose to run based on symptoms and the severity of those symptoms:

CBC/Chemistry Panel - These blood tests will evaluate various internal organ functions, including the heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, metabolism, and electrolyte balance. The CBC will measure the amount and different kinds of red and white blood cells that are present in the bloodstream. 

Clotting Time - This blood test will determine if the body is clotting at a normal rate. Decreased clotting capabilities are often a result of heat stroke. This test may be performed several times during the recovery stage.

Treatment for Heat Stroke


The number one priority now is to cool your dog down. You will need to remove your dog from the heat immediately and try to cool its temperature using cool or tepid water (using cold water can cause the body to cool too quickly, and shock will set in). After you have thoroughly wet your dog with the lukewarm water, you can begin to increase the movement of air around them. This can be done by using a fan, or if you are somewhere without access to one, just using some kind of object like a blanket to fan the air, in order to create movement, will work. It is very helpful to use a rectal thermometer and check the dog’s temperature every five minutes. Once the body temp has reached 103°F you will need to dry you dog and provide some cover so they do not continue to lose body heat. Once you have made your dog comfortable for travel, get them to the nearest veterinary hospital immediately. NOTE: Even if it appears that your dog is recovering, it is still imperative that you are checked out by a veterinarian, as your dog may be dehydrated or experience other complications secondary to heat stroke.


Your veterinarian will use similar techniques to cool the body. Once the ideal temperature has been achieved, they will also likely want to provide supportive care. Supportive care may include the following:

Administer intravenous fluids, including sodium bicarbonates, to not only control dehydration, but also to balance hydration

Assist your dog’s breathing by giving him/her oxygen

Regular rectal temperature checks to monitor any decrease or fluctuation in body temperature

Provide an extensive amount of nursing care to keep your dog comfortable through the treatment process

Prevention of Heat Stroke

Heat stroke can be easily prevented if you take these precautions:

When in warm temperatures, always make sure your dog has shade and large amounts of fresh water.

Constantly monitor your dog’ behavior in hot weather. Restriction of exercise may be necessary.

Do not muzzle your dog in the heat, or do anything that may restrict its breathing. Panting is their main method of temperature control.

Do not leave your dog in a parked car for any amount of time on a hot day, even if it is in the shade or the windows are open. 

Some animals are more susceptible to heat stroke. Be aware of your dog’s predispositions and medical history.


If you notice a distressed animal in a hot, parked car, contact animal control or the police immediately.