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Heatstroke in dogs

When a dog gets too hot and is unable to reduce its body temperature by panting, it will develop heatstroke - which can kill. Do you know what symptoms to look out for?

panting springer spaniel in a garden on a hot summers day

Warning signs of heatstroke

  • Heavy panting and difficulty breathing
  • Excessively drooling
  • The dog appears lethargic, drowsy or uncoordinated
  • Collapsed or vomiting

See a dog in a hot car displaying any signs of heatstroke? Dial 999 immediately

Emergency First Aid for dogs

Here's what to do:

  • Move the dog to a shaded and cool area
  • Immediately pour cool (not cold to avoid shock) water over the dog. Tap water (15-16°C) has been found to be the most effective at cooling dogs with heat-related illnesses.  In a true emergency, any water is better than nothing.
  • Wet towels placed over the dog can worsen the condition, trapping heat.  In mild cases towels can be placed under the dog, but never over, and in a true emergency water immersion or pouring water with air movement is ideal.
  • Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water
  • Continue to pour cool water over the dog until their breathing starts to settle, but not too much that they start shivering
  • Dogs that have lost consciousness will stop panting, despite still having a very high temperature, these dogs require urgent aggressive cooling as a priority. 
  • Throughout the treatment of heatstroke try to avoid pouring water on or near your dog's head, as there is a risk of them inhaling water which could lead to drowning, especially for flat-faced and unconscious dogs.

Once the dog is cool, take them to the nearest vet as a matter of urgency.

Some types of dogs are more prone to heatstroke, like very old or young dogs, dogs with thick, heavy coats or dogs with very short flat faces like pugs and bulldog types. Dogs with certain diseases or on some types of medication are also more at risk. 

Follow the links below to learn more about what to do with dogs in hot cars.

Find out more