Ask the Vet

Don't Ignore Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs

Hot days mean it's important to protect pets from the heat, even if they are used to working outside. Damage caused by a heat stroke may not show up for days.(Progressive Farmer photo by Pamela Smith)


My neighbor had one of his dogs die, and he said he thought it was a heat stroke. Our dogs are outside all the time when we are working. What are the signs of heat stroke in dogs, and what can I do to treat it?


Dogs and cats cool themselves by panting and radiating heat. Hot temperatures make this less efficient and definitely increase risk of heat stroke.

Normal body temperature for dogs and cats ranges between 101°F and 102.5°F. Heat stroke is a body temperature over 104°F. Body temperature over 106°F is severe heat stroke. The only way to check an animal's body temperature is with a rectal thermometer.

Signs of heat stroke may include panting, excessive salivation, red or pale gums, a purple tongue, rapid heart rate, glazed eyes, incoordination, vomiting and diarrhea. Without prompt attention, the liver, kidneys, heart, muscles, brain and GI tract can be severely damaged.

If you suspect your dog or cat is having a heat stroke, get him to a cool place and call your veterinarian. Depending on the circumstances, the vet may want you to bring the animal into the clinic immediately or start the cooling process first and then come in.

It's a common reaction, but don't immerse a pet in cold water or try to force him to drink water. Tepid water should be used to rinse him, to slowly lower body temperature. Cold water immersion often results in hypothermia which can lead to death. Take the animal's temperature frequently, and try to get it to 103°F. Then dry the pet, stabilize the temperature and transport him to the veterinarian. Even if he seems to recover, heat stroke damage to internal organs may have occurred and, in some cases, won't show up for hours or days.