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Heatstroke in Dogs


As the weather heats up, news of dogs being left in hot cars create social media meltdowns (pardon the pun). But did you know, that dogs can suffer the effects of heat anywhere and at any time, particularly certain breeds?

Unlike humans dogs don’t cool off by sweating through their skin. The only way they can lower their body temperature is to pant, and sweat a little bit through their paws.


What is Heatstroke?

Heatstroke is the elevation of your pets body’s temperature ,and without urgent treatment it can be a life threatening situation. Heatstroke is most common in brachycephalic breeds (those with short muzzles or commonly known as “pushed in” faces) such as British Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terrier, Pekingese, Boxer, Bulldog, Shih Tzu, etc.


How does Heatstroke Occur?

  • Dogs left in hot cars
  • Lack of adequate shade outdoors
  • Exercising your pet in hot weather – including backyard play
  • Inadequate water source
  • Obesity


What signs should I look out for?

  • Panting excessively and restless
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Drooling / Salivating excessively
  • Increased heart rate
  • Unsteady on feet
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Bluish-purple or bright red gum colour
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Muscle tremors
  • Collapsing or lying down


Preventing heatstroke

  • NEVER leave your pet unattended in a car, regardless of if it’s 42 degrees or 20 degrees! Pet’s don’t sweat so even with windows open, it does very little to slow the overheating process.
  • Avoid exercising during the hottest part of the day. Enjoy an early morning or evening walk instead. Be mindful of your pets paws also, where possible, avoid hot sand, pavements and bitumen.
  • If travelling with pets ensure you carry a portable water bowl and plenty of water. Take rest stops regularly to ensure your pet stays hydrated.
  • Provide your pet with plenty of fresh, clean water at all times. If outside, make sure it is placed in an area that will be shady for the entire day.
  • Consider filling and freezing water bottles when you know your pet will be outside for most of the day. Frozen water bottles are a great way to keep your pet cool and it entertains them too!
  • Make sure your pets water bowls are solid, spill proof and play proof. It’s also a great idea to provide your pet with a number of water bowls, in case of accidents.
  • If your pet is left outdoors during hot weather, it is imperative you provide them with adequate shade to shelter from the sun.
  • Have some FUN! – If your dog is a water baby provide them with a children’s plastic pool (the ones that look like clams) and half fill it with water. Then step back and watch them have loads of fun in it!


Cool your pet immediately – This initial home treatment can greatly increase the chance of survival. Where possible, whilst doing this step, call your vet immediately to seek further advice. Immerse your pet in a cold water bath (don’t use ice-cold water or ice), or soak them using running water from a hose. After wetting, fan your pet to maintain airflow over the body. Seek veterinary attention immediately as intensive care is generally required to save your pet’s life.


If you think your pet is in distress, phone us immediately for advice. Your quick actions could save your pet’s life.


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Pets Health is a full service animal hospital with clinics located in Hilton and O’Halloran Hill. We are dedicated to helping you keep your best mate happy and healthy through each stage of their life with compassionate and reassuring veterinary care.

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O’Halloran Hill Vet Centre

123 Main South Road
O’Halloran Hill, SA 5158

Hilton Vet Centre

142 Sir Donald Bradman Drive
Hilton, SA 5033