Heat Stroke in Dogs

Recognise and prevent heat stroke in dogs

Protect your dog from sunstroke or heat stroke in summer. Here you can find out how you can prevent overheating and what you should do in an emergency.

Heat stroke in dogs - what is it?

Unlike many other animals, dogs have almost no sweat glands. The few existing sweat glands are on the nose and on the paws. Dogs regulate their body temperature by panting. This allows them to cool themselves down a bit via the tongue and regulate the normal body temperature of around 38 °C to 39 °C. This cooling consumes a lot of energy and above all water - the dog has to drink constantly.

From a body temperature of 41 °C to 43 °C it becomes life-threatening for the dog.

Even at an outside temperature of approx. 30 °C, it can be difficult for dogs to cool their bodies sufficiently. Breeds with short muzzles or very thick fur are particularly susceptible. Excessive exertion can also cause problems (exercise-related heat stroke). If the dog's own cooling is not sufficient and the body temperature rises, the brain expands as a result. Since the skull bone does not give way, the pressure on the brain increases. In addition to pain, there are signs of failure: the dog becomes apathetic, staggers and after a short time can no longer stand. Heat stroke is followed by heat collapse and, in the worst case, multi-organ failure. From a body temperature of around 42 °C, the body's own protein is destroyed. This can have deadly consequences.


How do I recognise heatstroke or sunstroke?

The classic symptoms of heat stroke are:

  • Strong panting
  • Possibly increased salivation
  • An elongated neck
  • A tongue hanging out
  • Hot and red insides of ears
  • Dry, very reddened mucous membranes
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • coordination disorders
  • tachycardia
  • vomiting or diarrhoea
  • cardiac arrhythmias


Sunstroke versus heat stroke



Local overheating of the brain (head, neck)

overheating of the entire body

Danger from direct sunlight

Danger due to the ambient temperature, direct sun is not necessary

The temperature may be within the acceptable range

The ambient temperature is too high

The dog is walking in the blazing sun

The dog is left in the car on a hot day


In both cases, panting is no longer enough for the dog to cool down. Not every dog ​​shows all symptoms. Keep a close eye on your four-legged friend in summer in order to recognise possible signs as quickly as possible and to be able to remedy the situation



First aid tips for dog heat stroke

If you suspect heat stroke in your dog, it is important to remain calm. You should have a calming effect on both the dog and other people, such as the owner. Immediately place the dog in the shade and slowly begin to cool it down. Important: leash the dog. In the worst case, he could run away disoriented in shock. First cool the paws with damp towels or water from the garden hose, then the body. Offer him water, but definitely don't give it to him. The dog must not be cooled too quickly with plenty of cold water. Sudden cold constricts blood vessels and worsens symptoms. The temperature drop must not be abrupt. Use lukewarm rather than ice cold water.

Slowly cool down the dog!

Damp towels quickly become warm and need to be changed frequently. Heat stroke or even circulatory shock is always a medical emergency that must be treated immediately. Transport the dog to the vet immediately in a cool car. Call the veterinarian so that the dog's treatment can be prepared. At the vet’s, your dog will be provided with all the necessary infusions and emergency medication. 



Other way’s to help you avoid heat stroke in your dog

Not only the car is dangerous for the dog in warm temperatures. Efforts in the heat, such as running on a bike or long hikes, can also lead to heat stroke, even if the temperature seems bearable to the owner. Staying in stuffy, overheated rooms is also dangerous.

Rest your dog when it's hot and postpone all activities until the cooler mornings and evenings. A cool spot in the shade and places to rest should be included in the walk. Always take enough drinking water with you. A water bottle and a small drinking bowl for on the go are ideal. Even better: a chance to swim in a cool lake or river.

Keep in mind that most dogs tolerate heat much less than humans. Never leave your dog alone in the car in the summer, not even for a short time. Dogs should not exert themselves in the heat, but should rest in the shade or even better in a cool house. 

Provide plenty of fresh drinking water. If your dog has a thick coat, talk to your vet. Especially with older or sick animals, clipping can make life easier for the dog in summer. 


Back to blog