Heat stroke

Heat Stroke in dogs




With our Summer due to start this weekend it is worth remembering the threat of heat stroke which despite our awful Summers is still all to common.


Heat stroke is a serious condition that requires emergency treatment. Dogs can be prone to overheating because they have limited ability to cool themselves compared with humans. Dogs mostly rely on panting as a way to reduce their body temperature and have limited ability to sweat. For this reason dogs can easily overheat if left in a very hot environment, if over-exercised in warm weather or if they have difficulty breathing or panting.

The most common risk factors for heat stroke are:

  • Being a brachycephalic breed (ie dogs with flattened faces and short noses) such Bulldogs, Boxers, Pug or Pekingese
  • Being left in a hot confined space such as a car in hot  weather
  • Exercising strenuously in hot or humid weather
  • Suffering from heart or lung disease which interferes with efficient breathing
  • Being muzzled while under a hair dryer

Signs of Heat Stroke:

Heat stroke begins with heavy panting, difficulty breathing and drooling. This may progress to vomiting and diarrheoa, collapse, seizures, coma and death. A dog left in a hot car on even a just a moderately sunny day can develop heat stroke within 20 mins and could die within the hour.

What to do:

If you suspect heat stroke you should contact your vet as soon as possible for further advice and to let them know to expect your arrival at the surgery. It is important to move the dog from the hot environment into a shaded cool environment. Begin cooling by spraying with cool (but not cold) water. Do not cover the dog with wet towels as this prevents the evaporation of the water from the dog and can cause a ‘sauna effect’. Take the dog’s rectal temperature every 10 minutes. Continue actively cooling until the body temperature falls to 39oC (103oF). At this point, dry the dog and stop the cooling process.

What your vet may do:

Your vet may need to treat the dog with intravenous fluids and oxygen by mask. Drugs may be needed to treat some of the symptoms of heat stroke such as seizures or breathing difficulties and in some instances emergency surgery to allow for more efficient breathing may need to be performed.

To Prevent:

  • NEVER leave a dog in a hot car even if only for a few minutes.
  • Always provide shade and water for your dog during hot weather
  • Avoid strenuous exercise in warm weather especially with Brachycephalic dogs or those with heart or respiratory conditions

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