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10 Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs

10 Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs

You may already know that heat stroke in dogs can happen quickly, but do you know why? Unlike people who have millions of sweat glands to control their body temperature, dogs have few sweat glands, with most of them located in their foot pads.

Scientists speculate that sweat glands in a dog’s paw do little to help regulate body temperature. Instead, dogs eliminate heat and control body temperature by panting. Because dogs pant rather than sweat, they are much more sensitive to heat than people are.

What Is Heat Exhaustion?

Also known as hyperthermia, heat exhaustion in dogs occurs when the body’s temperature rises above a healthy range and dogs are unable to regulate their body temperature. This condition can range from mild heat exhaustion to severe heat stroke, which can cause a high fever and even organ failure. Heat stroke, or heatstroke, in dogs is a potentially life-threatening condition in which every minute matters. Unfortunately, heat stroke can occur quickly, especially on days when the outside temperature and humidity are high.

Dogs that are old, overweight, or suffering from medical conditions are more prone to developing heat exhaustion. Brachycephalic breeds (flat-faced dogs), such as pugs and bulldogs, are more susceptible to heat exhaustion because they can’t pant as efficiently. Dogs with laryngeal paralysis (failure of the larynx) are also more prone to overheating and heat stroke. Even working dogs that are used to being outside on hot days should be closely monitored for symptoms of heat stroke.

Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs

At Thomas Labs®, we understand the importance of recognizing the common signs and symptoms of heat stroke in dogs. Here are some signs a pet owner should keep an eye out for:

1. Excessive panting is often one of the most common first signs of overheating in dogs. If your dog is panting constantly, he may be overheated.

2. Difficulty breathing is another sign of heat stroke in dogs. An overheated dog may start to breathe faster than normal, also known as hyperventilation.

3. Fever in dogs could be an indicator of overheating. Although body temperature can vary among dogs, a body temperature above 103°F is abnormal. If your dog’s nose is dry and hot, he may have a fever. 

4. Dehydration in dogs is another sign of overheating. Signs of dehydration in dogs include panting, fast breathing, lethargy, weakness, and loss of balance.

5. Excessive drooling, or drool that is thicker or stickier than normal, could be an indicator of heat stroke in dogs.

6. Vomiting or diarrhea are additional signs of overheating. There may also be blood in the vomit or stool.

7. Muscle tremors can happen as a result of heat exhaustion. They cause your dog to shiver or shake, even though the outside temperature may be very warm.

8. Lack of urine can be a sign of dehydration or overheating.

9. Abnormal color of gums can occur as a result of overheating, causing gums to appear red, gray, blue, or dark purple. 

10. Additional symptoms include rapid heart rate, seizures, dizziness, collapse, shock, and unconsciousness.

Treating Heat Stroke in Dogs

Although treatment steps may vary depending on severity, there are a few steps you can take to treat heat stroke in dogs.

Step 1: The first step to treat heat exhaustion is to lower your dog’s body temperature. You can do this by spraying your dog with cool water, immersing his entire body in cool water, wrapping him in wet towels, or putting him in front of a fan. It’s important to avoid ice and cold water, as this can be dangerous and cause more issues.

Step 2: Check your dog’s temperature frequently. Once his rectal temperature drops to 103°F, you can stop your efforts to cool him down (to avoid it dropping below normal).

Step 3: As your dog continues to cool down, provide him with a small amount of lukewarm or cool water to drink. The same guideline in regard to water temperature applies. Make sure the water is cool, not cold, and don’t give him ice.

Step 4: Call your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet will ensure your dog’s temperature is stabilized, monitor for complications, check if organ failure has occurred, and advise you about further treatment steps. If necessary, your vet can administer intravenous fluids to correct your dog’s dehydration.

Preventing Heat Stroke in Dogs

Thankfully, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are easily preventable. Here are a few steps to help ensure your dog doesn’t get overheated.

1. Never leave your dog inside a parked car.
A parked car can reach extremely high temperatures very quickly, even if you leave the windows open and even if you’re parked in the shade. On a 90-degree day, a parked car can reach 110 degrees in just 10 minutes, and it can reach 130 degrees in 30 minutes.

2. Avoid being outside during peak temperature hours.
If possible, keep your dog inside in the air conditioning during the hottest hours of the day and avoid exercising on hot, humid days. When your dog is outside, make sure he has shade to rest in and that he doesn’t stay outside for too long. It’s also a good idea to take walks during the early morning and evening when the weather is a little cooler.

3. Ensure your dog drinks plenty of water.
Dehydration in dogs can happen quickly and become a serious issue. To keep your dog hydrated, make sure he always has access to fresh, clean water. Puppies are even more susceptible to dehydration due to their small body mass. You can avoid having a dehydrated puppy or dog by making sure you’re familiar with the signs of dehydration. If your dog is showing signs of dehydration, you can support hydration by administering an oral electrolyte solution for dogs, like HydrADE developed by Thomas Pet.

Early recognition of heat stroke in dogs and its symptoms are key to recovery. By being familiar with the common symptoms and taking quick action, you can help prevent heat stroke and further issues in your dog.


The materials and information provided on this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your veterinarian or other pet healthcare professional. Consult your own veterinarian if you have medical questions concerning diagnosis, treatment, therapy, or medical attention.

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