Photo of a pug next to its water bowl.

How to tell if your dog has heat stroke

Heat stroke is a severe condition that can be fatal or result in long-term health complications for your dog. Pet owners must be mindful of their dog’s internal temperature in hot and humid conditions and take steps to prevent or treat heat stroke if necessary.


What is heat stroke?

Also called hyperthermia, heat stroke is when your dog’s core temperature rises above 40.6 C (105 F). Heat stroke can lead to brain swelling, kidney failure, intestinal bleeding and blood clotting if left untreated. Common causes of heat stroke are related to neglect by owners, such as leaving a dog in a car on a hot day or failure to provide shade and water when playing outside.


Dogs don’t sweat like humans do to cool off. Instead, they pant, and their blood vessels expand. These methods aren’t always enough to keep cool when it’s hot and humid.


Dogs with thick fur, short noses and medical conditions such as obesity or hypothyroidism are more prone to heat stroke.


Signs of heat stroke

Be aware of these symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Excessive panting
  • Reddened ears and gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Hyperventilation
  • Muscle tremors


If you have a rectal thermometer, take your dog’s temperature. If it’s more than 39 C (101.5 F), your dog is experiencing hyperthermia, and you should act immediately.


What to do if your dog has heat stroke

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. If you think your pet is suffering from heat stroke, you should visit a veterinary clinic as soon as possible.


Meantime, you can try to cool your dog by taking it to a well-ventilated area or placing it in front of a fan. You can spray the dog’s underside with cool (not cold) water or place a wet towel on its back. Don’t immerse your dog in cold water.


Preventing heat stroke

Here are a few ways to help your dog avoid heat stroke:  

  • Never leave it in a car with the windows closed
  • Provide shade and plenty of fresh, cool water on hot days
  • Limit physical activity on hot and humid days


Finally, choose mornings or evenings for walks when the temperatures are cooler.


Emergency vet clinic services in Scarborough

At Bellamy-Lawrence Animal Hospital, our team of veterinarians can treat your dog’s heat stroke and various other emergency medical conditions seven days a week at our pet clinic in Scarborough. We also provide preventative care like flea and tick control and vaccinations. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.