Help! My Dog Has Heat Stroke

Updated June 6, 2021

‘At A Glance (Details Below)’ Emergency Care

How To Treat A Dog With Heat Stroke

  1. Move the dog from the hot area and provide water if the dog can drink
  2. Wet the dog with cool water and apply cold packs to the neck and groin
  3. Travel to your vet as quickly as safe to do so; call them on the way

Now dive deeper.

Every dog owner needs to know how easily heat stroke can harm their dog.

Heat exhaustion is caused by excessive body temperature. Anything over 39C is abnormal but heat stroke typically occurs at over 41C.

Why are dogs at risk of heat stress?

  • Dogs can’t sweat. Imagine how that changes things
  • Obesity and long hair make heat loss difficult
  • Short faced breeds can’t pant as effectively- examples are bulldogs, pugs, boxers and shi tzus
  • Dogs don’t know when to stop. Dogs who love to work, run or chase a ball will keep doing it if encouraged
  • Dogs can be confined to a hot area. Examples include cars, hot rooms, crates or yards without shade
  • Dog water bowls can run out or tip over- the picture shows an old surgery theatre light I cemented down to stop Loki playing in it & knocking it over
  • Dogs are descended from wolves, not dingoes- their natural environment is much cooler than ours

What does heat stress look like?

  • Wobbly, unsteady walking
  • Disorientation or Collapse
  • Extreme panting and drooling
  • Dark red gums
  • Extreme cases include seizures, bleeding, multiple organ failure and death

How can you prevent heat stroke?

  • Clip long hair in the warm months
  • Keep your dog at their ideal body weight
  • Give dogs the freedom to choose a cool place on a hot day
  • Provide a shallow wading pool if your dog likes water
  • Allow access to the house if possible
  • Board your dog in monitored air conditioned premises if necessary
  • Do not exercise dogs in hot conditions- in summer the only good time can be before sunrise on hot days
  • Make frozen treats for your dog on hot days
  • Be prepared for power failures. Don’t just rely on air conditioning; if you aren’t at home and remember fans don’t work well as dogs don’t sweat.

How do you treat a dog with heat stroke?

  • Move the dog from the hot area
  • Provide water if your dog can drink
  • Travel to your vet as quickly as safe to do so; call them on the way


  • Wet the dog all over with cool water
  • Apply cold packs to the neck and groin

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here. The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

4 Replies to “Help! My Dog Has Heat Stroke”

  1. Hi, I was wondering what your thoughts are on how effective pet cooling mats are in preventing overheating in dogs ? Are some brands more effective and safe then others?

    1. Hi Jill. That’s an interesting question – I haven’t tried one yet but I doubt they could provide any more than marginal benefit. They look like yet another example of pet owners having a “perfect solution to their problem” marketed to them that’s just a little too easy. My personal opinion is that cooling mats could even be dangerous in giving pet owners a false sense of security. Such a mat would only be useful if it managed to stay cool the entire day.

  2. Thank you for all the great advice on this site. I am a Queenslander and have a good vet for my beloved Labrador Lucy, but he doesn’t have this sort of resource. I appreciated the material about titre tests which is an issue I am now ambivalent about, but only because of my pet insurer. I don’t know if you give advice in response to questions, but if you do, what does your practice think about Olive Leaf extract for dogs?

    1. Hi Audrey. Thanks for the lovely comment. Regarding olive leaf extract, it has some uses, mostly on the exterior of the dog, but like many of these natural products, is in danger of being overhyped. Antibacterial natural products only go so far and therefore only work on the milder diseases.

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