Critical Symptoms of HeatStroke in Dogs That Every Owner Needs to Know

Are you familiar with the symptoms of heatstroke in dogs? Many dog owners do not realize that heatstroke in dogs can be fatal, nor do they realize how quickly it can strike. Some even wonder: can dogs get heat stroke?

Preventing heatstroke in dogs is just as important as recognizing the symptoms.

Take the time today to read about the symptoms discussed below. When you finish you will be able to:

  • Recognize the symptoms of heatstroke in dogs
  • Avoid common mistakes owners make that can unknowingly cause heatstroke and heat exhaustion.
  • Cool your dog down quickly when needed


Heatstroke in dogs is a serious and life threating condition. If left untreated, it can cause organ damage and quickly become fatal. If you think your dog is suffering from heatstroke, get it to a vet immediately.

What is Heatstroke in Dogs?

Overheating, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke are all terms that refer to stages of a dog’s body temperature rising. Heatstroke occurs when the dog’s body overheats to the point where it is unable to cool itself down.

A dog’s normal body temperature ranges from 99˚ to 102˚. Once the dog’s temperature goes above 109˚, body system and organ damage begins and fatality can occur quickly.

On a hot day, a dog will cool itself off in two ways. The first is called evaporation. Dogs cool their body by panting to evaporate the heat. The second way dogs cool themselves off is called conduction. Dogs will lie on a cool surface and the heat is transferred.

Stages of Heatstroke

  1. Heat Stress:
    A dog will pant heavily, drink water, and seek out a cool surface to bring their body temperature down.
  2. Heat Exhaustion:
    If the dog can’t cool off effectively, heat stress progresses to heat exhaustion. Their heart rate elevates, panting becomes faster, gums become red, and body temperature rises above 106˚.
  3. Heat Stoke:
    If heat exhaustion is not addressed, body temperature rises above 109˚. Organ functions starts to suffer. A dog may vomit, have seizures, diarrhea, or collapse.

Causes of Heatstroke in Dogs

cars in parking lot
photo by facebook237

The following are the most common causes of heatstroke:

  • A warm or hot environment with inadequate ventilation or shelter. Many times, this means the dog is closed in a room, car, crate, or other enclosure.
  • Excessive exercise in hot weather or a hot room.
  • Lack of drinking water.
  • Lack of shade or shelter from the heat for a dog left outside

Most of the time, heatstroke is caused by the careless action of a dog’s owner.

In the case of dogs being left in cars, it is imperative that dog owners realize how quickly a car heats up.

Did you know?

On a 75˚ day that might feel comfortable for the human, the inside of a closed car sitting in the sun will shoot above 120˚ in less than 20 minutes. Death can occur quickly.

Are Certain Dogs More Prone to Heatstroke?

pug (dog) that is panting, one of the symptoms of heatstroke in dogs
photo by CalculaPR

Yes, certain dogs are more vulnerable to heatstroke. These include:

  • Older dogs
  • Overweight dogs
  • Flat-faced breeds such as pugs and bulldogs
  • Dogs with thick fur
  • Any dog that is not accustomed to exercising in hot weather

Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs

Many people notice their dog panting more on a hot day and wonder, “does my dog have heat stroke?”

panting dog
photo by calm lu

Although heat exhaustion can quickly progress to symptoms of heatstroke in dogs, an alert owner can catch the symptoms early and treat the dogs appropriately before the dog’s temperature elevates to a dangerous level.

Initial symptoms of heat stress:

  • Panting
  • Drinks a lot of water
  • Seeks out cool surface to lay on

As heat stress becomes heat exhaustion:

  • Panting becomes more rapid
  • Dog shows restlessness or discomfort
  • Dog is unwilling to move around
  • Tongue may turn bright red
  • Gums become dry and may look red or pale
  • Heart rate increases

As heat exhaustion progresses to heatstroke, more severe symptoms will surface:

  • Breathing distress
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in urine or coming from rectum
  • Seizure
  • Muscle tremors
  • Confused behavior
  • Dizzy
  • Lethargic
  • Collapses
  • Unwilling or unable to move


dog cooling off in water, which is one way to reduce symptoms of heatstroke in dogs

If you see some of the symptoms above, you need to take immediate steps to cool your dog:

  1. Immediately get your pet out of the heat
  2. Wet your dog down with cool (not cold) water – you can use a hose, a tub, or just fill a cup or pitcher with water.

Important!! A hose that has been sitting in the sun can have boiling hot water in it. If using a hose, run the water cold first – make sure you are not spraying your dog with hot water.

  • Be sure to get the areas without hair (stomach, paw pads) wet. Don’t use ice-cold water or ice cubes, it will shock the body and trigger blood vessel constriction which will slow the cooling process.
  • If your dog is lying down, wet the ground around the dog as well.
  • Turn a fan on and aim it at your dog. The blowing air on the dog’s wet skin will help cool them down rapidly.
  • If you aren’t at home, put your wet dog in your car and sit it in front of the AC vents blowing full blast.
  • Encourage your cooling dog to move around slowly – it will help to circulate the cooling blood throughout his body.
  • Give your dog small amounts of cool water. Don’t allow them to guzzle water, it could lead to bloat.
  • If your dog was displaying heatstroke symptoms, get them to a vet to be checked out.

Heatstroke can kill in a matter of hours – don’t take any chances.

Homeopathic Remedies for Heatstroke in Dogs

**Note: this post contains affiliate links. No one paid me to recommend these products, I recommend them because I like them. By using the link to buy the products you are helping support**

While you are on your way to the vet, Dana Scott of DogsNaturallyMagazine recommends 3 homeopathic remedies for heatstroke depending on the symptoms your dog is displaying:

Aconitum napellus 6C to 30C
This remedy should be administered at the first signs of heatstroke. A dog that needs this remedy may seem very fearful or anxious. Give three pellets every 10 minutes for up to three doses. If you don’t notice any improvement, try one of the other remedies.

Gelsemium 30C
Dogs that need this remedy seem very weak and his muscles may be trembling. Give three pellets every 10 minutes for up to three doses. If there is no improvement, try the next remedy.

Glonoinum 6C to 30C
Dogs that need this remedy may exhibit vomiting, weakness, and pale, red, or blue gums Give three pellets every 5 minutes.

aconitum nepellus homeopathic remedy for loud noises
Gelsemium Sempervirens homeopathic remedy for loud noises
Glunonium homeopathic remedy

If you have a holistic vet they may give you other natural treatment support ideas. We have more information about how to find a holistic vet if you would like tips on finding one in your area.

How Does a Vet Treat Heatstroke in Dogs?

A vet will immediately check your dog’s temperature and other vital signs, and assess your dog’s heatstroke severity.

If necessary, the vet may do some of the following:

  • Insert an IV with cooling fluids
  • Give medications to manage secondary complications
  • Give your dog a blood transfusion
  • Administer supplemental oxygen
  • Draw blood to check organ function

Preventing Heatstroke in Dogs

puppy at cafe
photo by Anders Ipsen

The easiest way to handle heatstroke is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are the easy steps to follow to prevent heatstroke in dogs:

  • Never leave your pet in a car! A 68˚ car will be 81˚ in just 10 minutes, and will spike to 115˚ in 30 minutes. It’s not worth risking your dog’s life. Choose one of these alternatives:
    • Use the drive thru
    • Go to dog friendly businesses that let you bring your dog inside
    • Eat at pet friendly restaurants that allow dogs on their patio
    • Bring a friend or older child who can sit outside with the dog while you’re in the store
    • Leave your dog at home
  • Never leave your dog in a crate in the sunshine, or a sunny place in your house.
  • Give your dog access to cool drinking water at all times.
  • On hot days, exercise your dog in the early morning or the evening.
  • If your dog is outside, make sure they have access to shade and fresh water. Add a kiddie pool to their yard so they can cool themselves down.
  • Don’t walk your dog on hot concrete, asphalt, or sand. They reflect the heat back at your dog and can burn the dog’s paws.
  • Make sure your dog’s area, whether outside or inside, is well-ventilated. Dogs cool off by panting, and that cooling process relies on good air flow.

Recognizing Heat Stroke Symptoms Can be a Lifesaver

Knowing the signs of heatstroke in dogs and how to quickly cool your dog down is lifesaving knowledge. Heatstroke progresses quickly, making early identification of the problem crucial.

As much as we all love to take our dog with us wherever we go (and knowing that no matter how hot it is our dogs will beg us to come along), we need to know when it is safest to leave our dog at home in a cool, sheltered environment.

Remember that even though it doesn’t seem “hot” outside, a car can be lethal. 68˚ may not feel hot when you are in open air, but your car will trap that air and heat up to deadly temperatures in the time it takes you to run in a store.

Here’s to awesome owners who care enough to learn the symptoms of heatstroke in dogs and keep their dogs safe!



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Karen Pedersen Written by:

Karen is an independent copywriter who loves dogs and everything about them. She is married to Scott, has 4 kids, and likes to take a natural and holistic approach to living and pet ownership.

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