Guide to heatstroke in dogs

As temperatures rise in the heat of summer, dogs can become very ill with heatstroke. Read on for the warning signs of heatstroke in dogs and what to do if you think your pet is suffering.

As temperatures rise in the heat of summer, dogs can become very ill with heatstroke. Read on for the warning signs of heatstroke in dogs and what to do if you think your pet is suffering.

Tom Harrison
Content writer
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Posted 8 OCTOBER 2019

What is heatstroke?

Heatstroke happens when a dog’s temperature exceeds its normal level and can’t be reduced fast enough by panting – a dog’s natural cooling method.

Dogs of all ages, breeds and sizes can become ill with heatstroke – even perfectly healthy ones – although it tends to be more serious for young or old dogs. It’s also more common in those with thick coats or short, flat faces, such as pugs.

Heatstroke can be very serious. If your dog’s temperature rises above a certain level it can cause irreparable damage to their organs. It could even kill them.

What are the warning signs of heatstroke in dogs?

Heatstroke can come on very quickly, with some dogs becoming seriously ill in a matter of minutes. However, there are a few clear signs to watch out for, including:

  • increased panting
  • excessive drooling
  • darker urine than normal or not urinating
  • anxious behaviour
  • appearing drowsy or uncoordinated
  • vomiting
  • dark red or purple gums
  • rapid or irregular heart rate

Your dog might not display all of these signs though, so it’s important to seek the advice of your vet if you have any concerns.

What to do if you think your dog has heatstroke

Because it doesn’t take long for heatstroke to become serious, it’s important to act as soon as you suspect your dog is suffering.

First, try to bring down their temperature by moving them to a cool, shaded area and spraying or bathing them in cool (not cold) water. You can use damp towels and a fan to help cool them down, and encourage them to drink some water.  

Once you think they’ve cooled down, it’s important to have them checked out by a vet who can monitor their temperature and see if they’ve developed any complications.  

In more serious cases, your dog might need to stay overnight for observation. This is why it’s important to make sure you have dog insurance that includes cover for illnesses.  

If you’re concerned about your dog, it can be tempting to rush them straight to the vets. However, it’s important that you try to cool them down first. A study showed that 61% of dogs died of heatstroke when they were taken straight to the vet, compared to 38% when owners attempted to lower their temperature first.

Steps to prevent heatstroke

You can’t do anything about hot weather, but there are a number of steps dog owners can take to help their pet avoid heatstroke:

  • keep them inside in the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest – take them for walks early in the morning or in the evening when it’s cooler
  • never leave your dog in a parked car
  • keep long, thick fur trimmed in the summer months
  • make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water to drink
  • move them to a cooler part of the house or, if they live outdoors, make sure they have access to a shaded area
  • help your dog maintain a healthy weight
  • don’t muzzle your dog as this prevents them from panting and cooling themselves down.

How long does it take a dog to recover from heatstroke?

Recovery time will depend on how severe your dog’s heatstroke is. It could be one or two days, or it could be as long as several months if they’ve suffered complications. Your vet will be able to advise you on aftercare for your pet.

How pet insurance can help

It’s upsetting when your pet becomes ill. But with the right insurance in place, you’re less likely to worry about the financial implications of treating them. Compare pet insurance quotes to find the right policy for you – and your pet.

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