What You Need to Know About Heat Stroke in Dogs

What You Need to Know About Heat Stroke in Dogs

We are quickly coming into summer, the time of year when we all need to keep cool. In Sydney and around Australia things can get quite hot quite quickly.  Dogs, like humans, sometimes struggle to overcome hot weather.

Hot weather can be tough on dogs, and can sometimes lead to heat stroke.

Let’s look at some helpful information about heat stroke in dogs – what it is, its causes, signs and the best treatments should it happen to your pet. We’ll also look at preventative measures you can take, for a happy dog in the hotter months.

What is Heat Stroke? Identification and Causes

Said simply, heat stroke happens when a dog’s core body temperature becomes too high.

There are two types of heat stroke in dogs. The first is called “Classic heat stroke” and happens when your pet is exposed to overly hot and humid environments.

Dogs usually pant to help them cool down. However, it if gets too hot, panting becomes less effective in cooling them down. If humidity reaches over 80% panting actually becomes ineffective and your dog can overheat.

The second cause is known as “extertional heat stroke” and usually happens due to too much exercise.

The Signs

Your dog may show the following signs:

  • Feeling hot to the touch
  • Heavy panting
  • Weird behaviour – your dog may appear confused
  • Collapsing, becoming non-responsive, or even suffering a seizure
  • Vomiting closely followed by diarrhoea (often bloody)
  • A fast heart rate and very bright pink/red gums
  • Dark brown / black urine, or no urine due to kidney failure
  • Internal and external bleeding
  • Muscle break down – your dog may not be able to walk due to muscular pain


If you suspect your dog has suffered from heatstroke, please seek emergency vet care immediately. Generally speaking, the sooner a vet can treat your animal the better. You can try to cool it on the way to the vet by fanning it down or wetting the fur with cool water. Try to avoid spraying water onto its face as you do this.

Once you get to the vet there are a number of treatments that can take place.

The first priority is to cool your dog. A vet will do this with fans and water baths. If you cooling your dog on the way to the vet, be careful as you can over-cool your dog, and it may also accidentally inhale water.

IV fluid therapy is also used. This helps to cool your dog and treat the shock that comes with heat stroke.

Specific drugs can be used to reduce swelling in the brain, and antibiotics are also used to protect against bacteria passing into their blood stream due to damaged internal organs.


Prevention is key in ensuring your dog’s health during the hotter months of the year. Don’t take your dog for long walks or runs on hot and humid days. Wait until the weather settles a bit to walk your pet. Consider a shorter walk and keeping your dog on a leash. This is particularly important if your dog is overweight, as the excess weight can make your dog more prone to heat stress!