Brown dog sitting in the grass

Heatstroke in Dogs

We’ve experienced record temperatures in Los Angeles this year. This means that many dogs at are a higher risk for heatstroke. Heatstroke is an emergency situation that can be fatal. A dog’s body isn’t designed to cool down as efficiently as a human’s body. Their body’s are much better at insulating them from the cold than radiating excess heat away. Happily, preventing heatstroke is actually fairly simple! In this article, you will learn about the most common risk factors for heatstroke (including breed, lifestyle, etc). You will also learn about symptoms of heatstroke, along with what to do if you believe your dog is showing symptoms of heatstroke. In the next few minutes, you will learn advice that could save your dog’s life!


Risk Factors



There are certain breeds of dogs that are at increased risk for heatstroke, typically because of their amount of fur, the length of their nose, or their weight. These include:

  • Any dogs that are overweight/obese
  • English Bulldogs
  • Pugs
  • French Bulldogs
  • Boston Terriers
  • Shih Tzus
  • Pekingese
  • Boxers
  • Chows



Dogs are at extreme risk when it’s hot and they have limited access to shade and water. In order for a dog’s cooling mechanisms to work, they need access to a cool and shaded place, along with water to keep their system hydrated. One way a dog radiates heat is through their feat pads, so when they can’t avoid heated ground (such as pavement), it can create a dangerous situation for them.

Certain lifestyle-s put dogs at heightened risk as well, such as dogs who are very active for any reason.



You may very well be aware that it’s dangerous to leave a dog in a hot car. However, what most pet owners don’t know is just how deadly this can be, even with temperatures usually just considered warm, or with windows partially cracked.

On a typical 85-degree day, it will take about ten minutes for the inside of a parked car to heat to 102 degrees. Within a half hour, it can climb to a blistering 120 degrees. And rolling the windows down part way actually doesn’t help much – your car will still essentially function as an oven. It is even dangerous to leave a dog in a car covered by shade during a hot (or warm) day.

Important note: If you ever see a pet (or child) inside an unattended car or vehicle in extreme weather, for any period of time, we urge you to immediately call law enorcement. It is an emergency situation.


Dogs suffering from severe heatstroke usually exhibit obvious symptoms. However, even mind heatstroke is an emergency situation, and you need to pay close attention to your dog for any of the following symptoms if they are at risk biologically or environmentally.

  • Rapid or excessive panting
  • Sticky or goopy saliva
  • Pale or red gums
  • Bright red tongue
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Vomiting (especially with blood)
  • Diarrhea
  • Shock
  • Coma

What to do

If you believe your dog could have heatstroke, you need to act quickly. Heatstroke can be fatal in only minutes. You will need to take your dog to see us (or a local veterinarian if you’re traveling), but first, you must take the following steps:

  1. Get your dog out of the hot environment immediately.
  2. Take your dog to a spot that is cool that has access to running water (ideally a tub). A hose works if a tub is impractical. Immediately begin running cool (but not cold!) water over their entire body. Spend extra time at their head and the back of their neck – this is where many large arteries are, so it will help them cool faster. Again, it is crucial that you don’t use cold water, as this can actually make the situation even more dangerous.
  3. If you have put your dog in a bathtub, make sure their head is elevated above the water level at all times. Do not allow water to enter their nose, even when rinsing.
  4. Take your dog’s temperature with a rectal thermometer (if you don’t have one, we recommend buying one now) every five minutes. As soon as your dog’s temperature reaches 103 degrees, you can stop the cooling measures.
  5. Take your dog to a cool, shaded place with drinking water. Allow them to drink as much water as they like. Dry them completely with a clean towel.
  6. Apply a cold pack (such as frozen vegetables) to the top of their head.
  7. Massage your dog’s legs vigorously. This will increase circulation, which decreases the risk of shock.
  8.  Call us (or a local vet if you’re traveling) immediately for further instructions. Even if your dog seems fine, it’s important to realize that heatstroke can often cause dangerous secondary conditions that you can’t see with the naked eye.


Veterinary care

Once at the veterinary hospital, we will begin administering intravenous fluids and electrolytes. Once we believe your dog’s condition to be stable, we will begin checking for secondary conditions. These include brain swelling, clotting problems, blood pressure levels, kidney failure, and neurological issues. If there are signs of a secondary condition, we will immediately act to treat your dog. Remember, with heatstroke, fast action is everything!

Heatstroke is a scary topic. We get that. Every year, so many dogs are lost to it. However, if you follow this guide, take preventative measures, and are quick to take action, you are taking an important step in protecting your beloved companion. Please make sure to bookmark this guide, and share with your friends. And remember, if you ever need us for anything, we are always here for you.

-The Harbor Pines Team


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