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Heat stroke in dogs

Heat stroke in dogs: is your dog panting a lot? reading-time-icon 2 min read

Is your dog panting a lot? Excessive panting can be a sign of heat stroke. Let’s look closer at the signs of heat stroke and what to do if your dog is suffering from it.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke occurs when a dog’s body temperature gets too high. Unlike humans, who can sweat freely and all over their bodies, dogs can only sweat through their noses and the bottoms of their paws. Instead, they cool themselves down by breathing out warm air and taking in cooler air through their mouth and tongue… also known as panting.

Heat stroke occurs when dogs can’t cool themselves down effectively. As their body temperature continues to rise, their organs begin to shut down. Severe heat stroke can even be fatal.


Your dog may be suffering from heatstroke if they display any of these signs:

  • Fast, heavy breathing or panting
  • A bright red tongue
  • Sticky gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Pressing their head to the wall
  • Circling
  • General restlessness
  • Dizziness – they may appear lethargic, drowsy or slow

These symptoms can belong to other problems or conditions but if they occur during a warm day, the cause is likely to be heat stroke.

Prevention: how to avoid heat exhaustion in dogs

With preparation and a few changes to your routine, you can drastically reduce the chance of your dog getting heat stroke:

  • Ensure your dog has access to shade at all times
  • Bring water out on walks, for your dog as well as for you
  • Avoid walking your dog at hotter parts of the day
  • When out walking, take regular stops in shaded areas 
  • Use sun cream on dogs with pale or thin fur
  • Don’t walk your dog on a pavement that’s too hot
  • NEVER leave them alone in the car

Read more about keeping your dog cool during the summer.

My dog has heat stroke. What do I do?

First things first, don’t panic. Act quickly but stay calm. Visibly worried behaviour will affect your dog and cause their body temperature to rise further.

Seek shade – your first action should be to remove your dog from any direct sunlight.

Apply cool water – don’t use freezing cold water as this could shock your dog and make their condition worse. Avoid getting them soaking wet too; instead, apply water little and often to their coat.

Offer drinking water – do this in small amounts so it enters your dog’s body gradually.

Note: you’ll see from these steps that it’s very important to bring water out on a walk with you during hot days.

If symptoms persist – contact your vet and bring your pet in as soon as you can.

Need more info?

If you’re concerned about keeping your dog protected during hot weather, have a chat with your vet.

Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.