dog running through sea waves

Heatstroke In Dogs

Most dogs are sensible in the heat, but remember that they can easily overheat when playing games and running, so be careful when exercising them

To help protect your dog from heatstroke, in the summer months it is best to walk your dog during the cooler morning and evening hours. 

If you think that your dog has heatstroke, contact your local vet.

Contact your local Vets4Pets practice

Getting hot under the collar

Heatstroke occurs when your dog cannot lose excess heat, causing the body to reach dangerous temperatures. A body temperature rise of only 4 degrees can be enough to kill!

Being in an environment that is too hot or humid can lead to heatstroke, especially if your dog is running or playing. This can include, but is not limited to: a hot day, being enclosed in a warm room (conservatories especially can become lethally hot very rapidly, even on cool but sunny days), and being left in the car. 

Some of the signs can include panting, drooling, fever, vomiting and collapse.

Like in people, sunburn can lead to skin cancer in dogs. Sadly, development of cancer often requires surgery for treatment to remove the affected area. Early detection is key to managing skin cancer – keep a close eye on your dog’s skin changes. If you do notice any changes, contact your vet as soon as possible.

You can help minimise the risk of sunburn in your dog in two ways:

  1. Keep them inside on very sunny days, or keep to the shade. If your skin would burn, so would theirs. Keeping them away from direct sun reduces the risk of sunburn.
  2. Apply dog-friendly sunscreen. Just like us, dogs can have protective sunscreen applied to protect skin from sun damage. Apply it to the nose and ears especially, but anywhere the fur is thin needs protection. Especially for swimmers, don’t forget to re-apply frequently.

If you suspect your pet is getting too hot, don’t wait. Always act immediately, as heatstroke can rapidly become an emergency.

Take your pet somewhere cooler, and if possible shower them in cool water. Cool, not cold, is the key here so don’t use iced water – water that is too cold will actually cause the blood vessels at the skin surface to tighten, making it harder for heat to leave the body. Cool water will help disperse heat fastest, and pets can:

  • Be sprayed with water
  • Have cool (not cold) water poured onto them
  • Have a fan on them
  • Be offered cool water to drink (but do not force them to drink anything)
  • You can also apply cool wet towels, but don’t leave these on for more than a few minutes at a time as they will quickly dry

If your dog has developed heatstroke, you should always take them to your nearest vet for help, even if the signs are mild. Your vet can assess for any complications, help monitor temperature (don’t forget, pets can get too cold too, so it is important to make sure you don’t over-chill your pet!), and put in place any supportive care.

Pets with mild heatstroke often still need to stay at the vets for monitoring, or if more serious damage has been done, may require more intensive hospitalisation for several days.

On hot days you need to fill up your pet’s water bowl a lot more frequently. Add a few ice cubes to the water to make it extra cool and tempting. You can also leave a fan on where your dog drinks.

Whether you’re driving with your dog for a walk, to the vet or elsewhere, never leave them alone in the car. Even with the windows partially open or parked in the shade, the temperature can rise to 120 degrees on a warm day!

During a car journey, make sure your dog has access to shade. You can use a window shade for them. If the car feels too hot to you during a journey, then it’s also too hot for your dog!

More info on keeping your dog safe in the car

If you can't hold your hand on the hot pavement for longer than five seconds, it is too hot for your dog to walk on. Leave walks to the early morning and late evening when it is cooler and make sure to pack a water bottle so your dogs can drink occasionally. If you are concerned about your pet in the heat, contact your local practice as soon as possible.                                        

Brush your dog regularly as a tangle free coat will help keep them cooler. Some dogs may benefit from a hair cut in the summer!

The Groom Room at Pets at Home offer a range of grooming options for your dog. 

Dog Advice

Read more of our expert dog advice to keep your dog happy and healthy.

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