Heat Stroke In Dogs

Signs of Heat Stroke In Dogs

Heat stroke in dogs is serious and with enough change in your dog’s behavior you’ll know “something’s up.” For starters, excessive panting (not the typical stuff, this is more like gasping) and maybe not wanting to walk or even stand. Your dog, if mobile is going to be seeking shade or cools spots maybe where they don’t normally go. When things are getting bad, they may vomit or have diarrhea. Also you might notice the tongue and gums turning from bright red to a bluish-grey color.

If you even think your dog is overheated–please CALL your vet. There isn’t a charge for phone calls (at least at most places) and this is something you definitely don’t want to let go on. At the end of this article, we share some tips for managing heat stroke until you can get your dog to a vet.

Avoid Heat Stroke

Remember that most of the time heat stroke is 100 percent preventable. Things you can do to help prevent heat stroke:

Don’t exercise your dog during peak heat times. Early morning is best as late at night can be really humid.

ALWAYS make sure pets have plenty of shade and fresh water.

Watch their paws on hot surfaces. (Put the back of your hand on the pavement for 7 seconds. If you are burning, so will they.)

Don’t let dogs bark outside for a long time. This excitement and agitation can be enough to trigger heat stroke. This includes not letting your dog chase around after critters in the yard for long periods of time when it is hot.

panting dog heat strokeDogs Prone to Heat Stroke

  • Flat-faced dogs (e.g., Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, Pekingese, Boston Terrier)
  • Large breeds with heavy coats
  • Young adult dogs may be highly active. They can easily over do things.
  • Overweight and obese dogs

The Biggest No-No Ever

NEVER leave your pet in the car in warm weather!

hot temps in cars


Still don’t think it is a big deal? Let Dr. Ernie Ward show you otherwise.

What to Do for Heat Stroke:

Call your vet immediately and head straight there (if they are open). Do not wait. (It’s a good idea to know your vet’s after hours and/or emergency policy. Also good to know where the nearest all hours emergency clinic is.)

Wrap pads of feet with ice packs. Lay a cool wet towel on them. Then get air moving (fans) as this helps with heat evaporation. Dogs and cats don’t sweat like we do.

Offer cool water in short bursts (e.g., drink 15 seconds) every few minutes IF you can get them to drink. Dogs in heat stroke often will not drink. Never force water into your dog’s mouth. You also can try feeding a few ice cubes.

Avoid soaking them with a hose or putting them in a full tub. These are somewhat controversial in regards to safety. There are plenty of other safe and effective things to do (see above). Try those instead.

Cats and Heat Stroke

cat panting heat stroke

Cats can have heat stroke, but it is not as common as in dogs. Most cats are inside (hopefully), but outdoor cats can overheat if they are doing a lot of hunting during the heat of the day. Cats will exhibit similar signs of heat stroke as dogs.

One special note with cats:  Anytime you have open mouth breathing in a cat you need to call your vet.