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Heatstroke in Dogs: Signs & Symptoms

Heatstroke in Dogs: Signs & Symptoms

Heatstroke is a serious condition that can affect dogs, sometimes even more than it affects humans. Here, our Nashua vets explain the signs and symptoms of heatstroke in dogs that are important for owners to be able to recognize.

What is Heatstroke in Dogs?

Heatstroke, or heat exhaustion, occurs when a dog's body is not properly cooled and overheats.

A heatstroke is a form of hyperthermia. It happens when your dog’s body is overwhelmed by excessive heat and can't regulate back to a normal temperature. When your dog's body temperature rises past 104°F, they are in danger. If body temperature is above 105°F, this indicates heatstroke.

What Causes of Heatstroke in Dogs?

A sadly common cause of heatstroke in dogs is people leaving their dogs in the car. On summer days, a vehicle's temperature can quickly exceed dangerous levels. Leave the dog at home while you shop.

A lack of access to water and shade in your backyard or at the beach can also spell trouble. Shade and water are vital on warm weather days, especially for dogs with medical conditions such as obesity, and senior dogs.

Your dog's breed could also be a contributing factor when it comes to heatstroke. If your dog is flat-faced or short-nosed they tend to be more vulnerable to breathing issues and more likely to get heatstroke. If your dog is sporting a thick coat they can have more issues with overheating.

Each dog requires close supervision, especially on days when the mercury is rising.

Heatstroke Symptoms in Dogs

During the summer, watch carefully for signs of heatstroke in dogs including any combination of the following symptoms:

  • Collapsing or loss of consciousness
  • Diarrhea
  • Mental “dullness” or flatness
  • Red gums
  • Excessive panting
  • Signs of discomfort
  • Unable or unwilling to move (or uncoordinated movement)
  • Vomiting

If your dog is displaying any of the above heatstroke symptoms it's time to take action.

What To Do If Your Dog Shows Signs of Heatstroke

Fortunately, heatstroke in dogs can be reversed if detected early. Immediately take them to a cooler place with good air circulation if you notice your dog displaying any symptoms listed above. If symptoms do not improve quickly , contact your vet immediately for advice. 

Take your dog’s temperature if you have access to a rectal thermometer.

If their temperature is above 104°F, this qualifies as an emergency and your dog will need to see a vet.

If this temperature is above 105°F, immediately hose or sponge your dog’s body with cool (not cold) water. Contact your vet or your nearest emergency vet for further instructions.

Take your dog to a vet right away whether you are able to reduce their temperature or not.

How to Avoid Getting Heatstroke

To help prevent your dog from getting heatstroke be very cautious about how much time your dog spends outside or in the sun during the summer. 

NEVER leave your dog in a car with closed windows - even if you park in the shade.

Don't leave your dog in the car with the windows open a little bit. It still gets way too hot in the car for your dog.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you suspect your dog is suffering from heatstroke, contact our Nashua veterinarians immediately to get veterinary attention.

Welcoming Referrals and Emergency Walk-Ins

Animal Medical Center of New England welcomes emergency walk-ins and appointments when your pet needs us most. Our team of specialists is also accepting referrals from primary care veterinarians - fill out a referral form to get started.


Contact (603) 821-7222