Now that the summer has finally arrived, it’s time to get outside with the dog and have some fun. However, most dogs are susceptible to heatstroke, and you’ll need to watch out for the signs so you can get your canine family to the vet as soon as possible. Here are 24 signs of heat stroke in dogs you must pay attention to.
What is Heat Stroke in Dogs?
Overheated dogs are at risk of heat stroke. Heat stroke is a serious, sometimes fatal condition caused by the dog’s body temperature rising to excessive levels. Usually, this is caused by the dog’s inability to lose excess heat, or in other words, cool themselves down. Dogs are restricted to panting and sweating in tiny amounts from their paws as a means of regulating their body temperature. As a species, dogs are remarkably inefficient at cooling themselves down, which means we, as dog owners, must step in.
Certain breeds are more at risk than others, including flat-faced or brachycephalic breeds, heavy-coated breeds, and young and old dogs. Dehydration in puppies or senior dogs can also be fatal.
What are the Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs?
Heat stroke can manifest in several ways, including excessive panting, reddened gums, and collapse. Check out our list of 24 signs of heat stroke in dogs you must pay attention to below.
1. Excessive Panting
As a dog’s primary defense against heat, panting comes naturally. However, when your dog starts panting excessively, it’s a warning sign you should never ignore. Excessive panting can be a symptom of many things and should always be checked out by a vet. If your dog is panting abnormally during hot weather, treat it as a symptom of heatstroke and get your canine friend out of the sun.
If your dog is experiencing heatstroke, drooling could be a sign. However, any further loss of water is bad news for dogs with heatstroke. Drooling is a side effect of excessive panting, and you should aim to cool your dog down quickly and call the vet.
3. Vomiting or Diarrhea
Vomiting is one of the more severe symptoms of heatstroke and requires immediate veterinarian advice. Your dog is likely losing excessive fluids, and vomiting exacerbates the problem, especially since your beloved canine can’t retain drinking water either.
4. Loss of Consciousness
Any loss of consciousness in a pet is cause for concern, especially in hot weather. If your dog passes out, or can’t be roused, take them to your veterinarian urgently. You’ll also want to get them out of the sun and into an air-conditioned vehicle or building as fast as you can.
5. Reddened Gums
If your dog shows signs of reddened gums on a hot day, don’t dismiss it as simple dental issues. Excessive panting, dehydration, and drooling can all irritate the gums. Also, irritated gums can lead to drooling, which costs your dog more fluids.
A sudden collapse in a dog is a veterinary emergency. Call your vet immediately and ask for advice, as they may recommend not moving your dog. However, if your dog is outside on a hot day, it’s advisable to move them out of the sun unless you suspect a fracture. If in doubt, call your vet first. They should be able to advise you on what to do quickly.
Dogs suffer from lethargy, much like the rest of us, but if you spot this on a hot day, it could be a sign of heat stroke. Heat stroke in dogs can lead to dull movements, loss of alertness, and sluggishness. If your dog is unresponsive or slow to respond, consider that this may be a symptom of heat stroke.
8. Excessive Thirst
You should always pay close attention to your dog’s water intake, as this could be crucial to acting quickly enough to save your dog’s life. Heat stroke in dogs will cause excessive thirst, but drinking too much water leads to vomiting and further dehydration. If you don’t spot your dog drinking excessively, empty water bowls and swollen bellies can be a good sign.
The last thing you need when your dog is suffering from heatstroke is dehydration. Any type of dehydration is dangerous, especially in the summer. A good way of testing for dehydration in your dog is to pinch the skin. If your canine friend is dehydrated, the skin won’t spring back quickly.
Dehydration can be dangerous, especially in the heat. It can cause kidney failure, permanent renal damage, circulatory problems, and death, as well as brain damage or coma.
If you suspect your dog is dehydrated, offer cool (not cold) water, and get them into the shade. Call a vet if your dog refuses to drink water and appears severely ill. You can try rubbing water around your dog’s mouth, but a severely dehydrated dog may need intravenous fluids urgently.
10. Dry gums
Heat stroke in dogs causes dry, sticky gums, or perhaps a sticky paste in your dog’s mouth. If you spot this, your dog is either dehydrated or suffering from heat stroke. Try offering your dog a bowl of water or wiping some water around your dog’s mouth, but you should never force a dog to drink water. Dogs with heat stroke may also have very red or pinker gums than usual.
It may seem surprising that overheating can cause death, but around 14% of dogs treated for heat-related illnesses die. Sudden death on a hot day could likely be caused by heat stroke or dehydration. Many issues linked to heat stroke can cause death, such as dehydration, seizure, brain damage, or organ failure.
12. Barking or Whining
If your dog is barking, whining, or making any other noise, it could be a sign that they are in distress or pain. Keep an ear out for doggy noises and investigate anything unusual for your dog. Persistent whining can be a sign of pain, anxiety, or stress, or it may just be that your dog is overheating or thirsty.
13. Little or No Urine
You should always watch your dog’s urine output during the summer months, as this is an excellent way of monitoring your dog’s hydration. If you notice your dog hasn’t urinated or asked to go out for a while, check them over for any other signs of heat stroke.
Any dog that starts to stagger needs medical attention. Either they’ve injured themselves or become ill, and staggering in the warmer months is an indicator of heat stroke in dogs. Check your dog for dehydration, as well as injuries.
15. Muscle Tremors
Dogs often suffer shaking or trembling, either through shock, pain, the cold, or emotional distress. However, muscle tremors on a hot day or in an overheated home could mean heat stroke in dogs.
A veterinarian should always check out delirium or confusion in your dog. If your dog is suffering from heat stroke, unusual behavior such as disorientation, confusion, or aggression could be a symptom.
17. Bright Red Tongue
The redder your dog’s tongue is, the hotter your dog is. When a dog is panting heavily to cool off, the tongue appears redder, but this can also be a symptom of excess heat in the body from other causes. Some other reasons your dog’s tongue could be red are inflammation or injury within the body.
18. Increased Heart Rate
Panting increases your dog’s heart rate as your dog exerts itself more to cool down. An increased heart rate is normal after exercise, though, but you should never let your dog exercise during the hotter parts of the day. To better keep an eye on your dog’s heart rate, keep a diary, perhaps in a notes app on your phone, and note down your canine friend’s heart rate in different situations. This will serve as an excellent resource in the summer months if you have any concerns about heat stroke.
19. Breathing Distress
If your dog is finding it difficult to breathe, call a veterinarian immediately. Heat stroke could lead to acute respiratory syndrome, and urgent veterinary care is needed to avoid death. Shorter snouted dogs like pugs or bulldogs are prone to heat stroke and breathing difficulties, so be particularly careful of these breeds in summer.
20. Bloody Feces or Vomit
Finding blood in your dog’s poo or vomit is never a good thing and should be treated as a medical emergency. An overheated dog may suffer from bloody, runny feces or bloody vomit, but whether it’s heat stroke or not, this is always a cause for concern.
21. Agitation or Restlessness
Agitated dogs can behave aggressively or out of character and may wander around, get up and lie down again, etc. Dogs who behave in this manner are experiencing some form of discomfort and should be checked over. Restlessness or agitation can be signs of heat stroke or simply just a sign that your dog is finding it difficult to get comfortable. Provide shade and water immediately.
Seizures in any animal need veterinarian care, but they are a clear sign of severe illness in dogs with heat stroke. Cool your dog down gradually and call the vet. Heat stroke can lead to coma, brain damage, and death, and a seizure means the brain is already being affected.
23. Lying Down
Dogs who repeatedly lie down, get up, and lie down again, could be distressed or in pain. It’s also a symptom of heat stroke, and you should ensure your dog is cool enough. Take your canine friend out of the sun and offer plenty of water.
24. Kidney failure
Dehydrated dogs are at risk of kidney failure caused by inadequate blood flow due to dehydration. Heat stroke in dogs can lead to renal damage, which can lead to permanent organ damage if not treated quickly enough.
What to Do About Heat Stroke in Dogs
If you suspect your dog has heat stroke, get them to a cool, shady place or inside immediately. Heat stroke in dogs must be dealt with quickly, but it’s crucial not to cool down an overheated dog too fast. Allow your dog to cool down gradually, as doing this too quickly can result in shock. Never wrap a hot dog in a wet towel, and don’t allow your canine friend to gulp large amounts of water.
Call your veterinarian for advice for minor symptoms such as drooling, but anything more serious such as vomiting, lethargy, or collapse, requires immediate veterinary care. It’s always worth calling your vet first, as they will be able to tell you how to transport your dog safely, and they will also prepare for your arrival.
How to Prevent Heat Stroke in Dogs
Fortunately, heat stroke in dogs is relatively easy to prevent. During the hot weather, exercise your dog first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, when it’s cooler. Take water and a bowl with you every time you take the dog out. Don’t allow your dog to laze around in the sun, especially during peak hours of sunlight, such as 11 am – 3 pm.
Keep an eye on your dog’s water bowl. Ensure that he always has plenty of fresh, cool water and monitor how fast it’s disappearing. You should also keep an eye on your dog’s urine output for signs of dehydration.
Never leave your dog in a parked car or hot building, and check your dog regularly for signs of illness or discomfort.
Some other good ways of keeping your dog cool in the summer include:
- Doggy ice pops
- Frozen treats, such as frozen doggy peanut butter
- Cooling water fountains
- Cooling mats
- Fans, air coolers, or air conditioning
Enjoy the summer days ahead, but stay mindful of your canine family’s health. Keep an eye out for these signs of heat stroke in dogs, and help protect your dog from severe illness.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.