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April 8, 2024

Recognizing and Preventing Heat Stroke in Dogs

  • Health Issues
  • Signs + Symptoms
  • Seasonal Tips
Dogs running into a lake

Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that can affect dogs in hot weather. If left untreated, it can lead to brain and organ damage, or even death. Knowing how to recognize the signs of heat stroke and taking steps to prevent it are crucial for any dog owner.

When temperatures climb, dogs are in danger of overheating because they primarily cool themselves by panting and through the pads on their paws.
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Go! Solutions TeamA Team of Dedicated Pet Parents + Nutrition Experts

Heat stroke happens when a dog's body temperature rises to dangerous levels, usually above 106°F (41°F)2.

At the first signs of heat stroke, immediate action is necessary. Heat stroke is an emergency requiring prompt veterinary treatment. But it can often be avoided by taking preventative measures and paying close attention to your dog on hot days. Being informed and proactive can save your dog's life.

Heat Stroke vs. Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that occurs when a dog's body temperature rises to a level that can cause serious damage to your dog’s brain and organs. Heat exhaustion is generally considered a milder form of heat stroke1,5, but it is still considered a serious medical emergency that requires immediate treatment as it can quickly progress to heat stroke.

The normal body temperature for a dog ranges between 101-102.5°F (38.3 to 39.2°C)5. Heat exhaustion occurs when a dog becomes overheated, and their temperature rises above the normal range of 102.5°F (39.2°C). Heat stroke sets in when a dog's temperature rises to 106°F (41°F) or higher2. At these elevated temperatures, major organs like the brain, heart, lungs and kidneys can begin to fail.

Risk Factors

Certain dogs are more prone to heat stroke than others. Some of the main risk factors include:


Brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs, and Boxer dogs have anatomy that makes it harder for them to pant and cool down. Long-haired breeds like Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Huskies are also at risk of overheating.

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Very old and very young dogs are less efficient at regulating their body temperature. Puppies don't have a fully developed temperature regulation system. Senior dogs can be more sensitive to extreme heat, and may have underlying medical conditions making them more susceptible to heat stroke3.


Overweight dogs have a harder time staying cool because their extra layers of fat act as insulation, trapping heat in their bodies3. The extra weight also puts more strain on the body.


Dogs who exercise heavily in hot weather are more prone to overheating. Their muscles generate a lot of internal heat during physical activity. Dogs who are out of shape are at higher risk than fit dogs.

Two dogs in water with stick

Paying attention to risk factors can help prevent heat stroke in susceptible dogs during hot weather. Monitoring them closely and taking preventative measures is key.

Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs

Heat stroke can come on suddenly. Some of the most common signs of heat stroke in dogs include:

  • Panting and drooling - Dogs pant to lower their body temperature. During heat stroke, the panting will become excessive, and the dog may drool large amounts of saliva.

  • Bright red or pale gums - Abnormal gum color, including bruising as well as dry, sticky gums are a common symptom of heat stroke2.

  • Vomiting and diarrhea - Gastrointestinal signs like vomiting and diarrhea are common with heat stroke.

  • Dizziness and weakness - As the brain overheats, dogs may become disoriented and weak. They may stumble or collapse.

  • Seizures and unconsciousness - Left untreated, heat stroke can lead to seizures and loss of consciousness. This is a life-threatening emergency.

What To Do If Your Dog is Suffering from Heat Stroke

If you suspect your dog is suffering from heat stroke, immediate action is essential. Call your veterinarian immediately. Heat stroke can quickly lead to shock and organ damage. Your vet will advise you on next steps, including whether emergency vet care is needed. Don't try to cool your dog too quickly or make them drink water, as this can be dangerous. Let your vet guide treatment.

Time is critical when heat stroke strikes, as it can progress rapidly. By taking quick action you can greatly improve your dog's chances of recovery. Contact your vet right away if heat stroke is suspected.

How to Prevent Heat Stroke in Dogs

The best way to handle heat stroke in dogs is to prevent it before it happens. Preventing heat stroke in dogs involves being cautious about their exposure to high temperatures. Here are some key tips for keeping your dog safe in hot weather:

  • Exercise dogs early in the morning or later in the evening when temperatures are cooler. Avoid mid-day walks on hot days.

  • Make sure dogs have unlimited access to fresh, cool water to prevent dehydration. Bring water if going for walks.

  • Provide access to shaded areas for dogs to rest and cool down, whether it's shade trees outside or a cool tiled floor indoors.

  • Never leave dogs in vehicles on warm days, even with windows cracked. Interior temps can rapidly reach dangerous levels.

  • Limit dogs' time outside on extremely hot and humid days. Keep activities brief and bring them indoors to air conditioning frequently.

  • Dogs with flat faces, obesity, heart conditions, or laryngeal paralysis are at higher risk. Take extra precautions with these dogs.

  • Consider clipping heavy coats in warm months but do not shave down to the skin. Fur provides some protection from UV rays.

Knowing how to recognize the signs of heat stroke in dogs can help keep your pet safe in hot weather. Preventing heat stroke is vital to dogs' health and comfort.

  1. “Everything You Need To Know About Heat Exhaustion In Dogs.” The Dodo. Last accessed March 12, 2024.

  2. "Heat Stroke in Dogs." VCA Canada. Last accessed March 12, 2024.

  3. “Hot weather hazards: Protecting vulnerable dogs from rising temperatures.” BCSPCA. Last accessed March 12, 2024.

  4. “How to Treat Your Pet's Heat Exhaustion or Heatstroke.” Preventative Vet. Last accessed March 12, 2024.

  5. "Taking Your Pet's Temperature." VCA Canada. Last accessed March 12, 2024.


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Go! Solutions Team

A Team of Dedicated Pet Parents + Nutrition Experts

We all want our cats and dogs to lead happy, healthy lives. We’re here to help you, with easy-to-understand information about your pet's daily care and feeding.