What are the signs, and how can you prevent this life threatening situation?

Heat stroke (Hyperthermia) is an increase in body temperature that occurs when the body cannot cope with excessive external heat and/or excessive exercise. A heat stroke can lead to death.

Heat stroke occurs more commonly in dogs than cats. It can affect any breed, but is more frequent in long-haired or thick-coated dogs, and short-nosed, flat-faced dogs. It can occur at any age but tends to affect old dogs more than young dogs. Heat stroke is also more likely if your dog is overweight.


  • Panting

  • Excessive drooling

  • Increased body temperature – above 39° C

  • Reddened gums

  • Production of less than normal amounts of urine

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Irregular heart beats

  • Sudden breathing distress

  • Vomiting blood

  • Blood in the stool

  • Changes in mental status

  • Muscle tremors

  • Wobbly, incoordinated gait

  • Seizures

  • Unconsciousness


Heat stroke occurs when the weather is hot and humid, or if your dog is enclosed in an unventilated room or car.

Dogs travelling on the back of a ute can get heat stroke, especially if the traffic is stopped for a while.

Excessive exercise without access to water can also be a cause.


If your dog succumbs to heat stroke, dehydration and shock can quickly occur. Early recognition of the symptoms of heat stroke is key. The first step is to attempt to lower the body temperature.

Some techniques include spraying the dog down with cool water, or immersing the dog’s entire body in cool – not cold – water; wrapping the dog in cool, wet towels; and cooling with fans.

However, cooling procedures should be stopped before the body temperature falls below normal. This could be difficult to monitor, and veterinary advice should be sort.

It is very important to avoid using ice or very cold water, as this may actually decrease heat loss. Shivering also is undesirable, as it creates internal heat. A gradual lowering of temperature is best. The same applies to drinking water. Allow your dog to drink cool, not cold, water freely. However, do not force your dog to drink.

You will need to have your dog examined by a veterinarian to ensure that a normal temperature has been reached and has stabilized. In many cases patients need to be hospitalized and may even need intensive care for several days if organ failure has occurred.


Dogs that have suffered an episode of heat stroke are prone to experiencing it again! Be aware of the signs of heat stroke so you may respond quickly and safely to an episode.

Avoid taking your dog out during the hottest times of day, or leaving them in places that can become too hot, like a garage, sunny room, sunny yard, or car. Never leave your dog in a parked car, even for only a few minutes, as a closed car  becomes dangerously hot very rapidly. Always have water accessible; on hot days you might even add ice blocks into the water bowl for your dog to lick.