Heatstroke in Dogs

Heat Stroke in Dogs

It’s summer at long last and while our canine companions enjoy the sun on their backs as much as we do, extra vigilance is needed.  We are all aware of the dangers of dogs in cars, but heat stoke can unintentionally be exercise induced. So here are some simple tips to keep you and your terrier enjoying the summer sun.

  1. Keep walks for the cooler part of the day – morning and evenings and use the back of the hand test for pavements and other surfaces. If you can’t comfortably keep your hand on the surface for 4 seconds or more, it’s too hot for your dog’s feet.

  2. Provide shade – your dog needs his sun umbrella too!

  3. Cold water available for drinking at all times – ice cubes added to outside drinking bowls helps keep the water cool.

  4. Dogs don’t always know when its good to stop playing, so watch for signs of distress when chasing balls and frolicking.

Signs of Heat Distress/Stroke

  1. Wide mouth panting – sometimes they almost appear to be “gobbling” for air.

  2. Dark red tongue, gums and eye rims.

  3. Drooling, excess salivation.

  4. Collapse, shaking, and in extremis - convulsions.

What to Do

  1. Cool rapidly – for healthy dogs immerse, hose or bucket over cold water (not freezing) – the water must be colder than the dog to have an effect. Fans will also help.

  2. For older dogs or those with underlying health conditions, use cool water (not freezing – this could cause shock),  or fans and bucket rather than immerse.  The core temperature still needs to get down as quickly as possible so the water must still be cooler than the dog.

  3. Get to the vet.  Ring ahead if you can so they know they have emergency coming.  They will continue the cooling process and almost certainly will put in an IV drip to rapidly re-hydrate. Current recommended veterinary guidelines are cool first, transport second.


  1. Cover in wet towels. They trap the heat in and prevent air flow.

  2. Leave dogs in cars or rooms with out a good through draft or fan going.

The following is a table from the good calculators site, which gives a great guide to relative temperatures outside the car to the interior.


3. Inside Car Temperature Calculator | Good Calculators

Summer is for outside fun for people and dogs and a bit of planning keeps it fun for all. If you are traveling out of your usual area, check out local vets where you will be and have their numbers in your phone - just in case!

This article has been vet checked and is in line with SPCA recommendations, check the SPCA site for further details.

Michele Garry