Warmer, summer days are just about here, so we need to be aware of how quickly the effects of heatstroke in dogs or overheating in dogs can happen in a closed car.  Even open windows do not help enough to lower the temperature on a hot day.

On an 85 degree day it takes only 10 minutes for the interior of the vehicle to climb to 102 degrees.  In a ½ hour the temperature rises to 120 degrees.  These temperatures cause overheating and heat stroke in a very short time.  Dogs pant to release heat, they cannot sweat to take advantage of the evaporative cooling system that sweating provides human beings. If your dog’s body temperature gets to 106 degrees or higher heatstroke may occur.   An overheated dog can suffer critical damage to his brain, heart, liver and nervous system.  The brain swells, causing seizures, lack of blood supply to the GI tract causes ulcers.  Dehydration leads to irreversible kidney damage.  All these catastrophic events take place within a matter of minutes.  Especially susceptible are brachycephalic breeds such as Bulldogs, Pugs or Pekingese.

The danger of heat stroke does not only happen to dogs

left in cars. Heat stroke and dehydration can occur


  • Exercising strenuously in hot, humid weather.
  • If your pet is suffering from a heart or lung disease that interferes with efficient breathing.
  • Being confined on concrete or asphalt surfaces, or being confined without shade and fresh water in hot weather or if your dog has a history of heat stroke

The signs of dehydration

  • A sign of dehydration is dryness of the mouth. The gums should be wet and glistening, not pale and tacky
  • The saliva is thick and tenacious
  • In advanced dehydration cases the eyes are sunken and your dog exhibits signs of shock, including collapse
  • Emergency treatment to cool the heatstroke dog must begin at once.
  • Move the dog out of the source of heat and into an air conditioned building if air conditioning is not available use a fan.
  • Mild cases can be resolved by moving the dog into a cool environment.
  • A dog that is visibly dehydrated should receive immediate veterinary attention (intravenous fluids to replace fluids and prevent further loss of fluids.

In more serious cases of overheating and heat stroke in dogs:

  • They  may have trouble breathing, weakness and/or fatigue, disorientation.
  • Bright red tongue and pale gums or increased heart rate.
  • You will need to cool your dog down as soon as possible.
  • Pour cool water over the dog’s head and body.
  • Drape wet towels over your dog but don’t leave on for too long.
  • Gently hose them using a very gentle stream of water, preferable a dribble or light spray (don’t use hose at full strength)
  • If possible submerge your dog in a bathtub or tank of cool, not cold, water.
  • Never use ice water or ice, as this will close the skin pores, ice and ice water shrink the skin’s surface vessels and can exacerbate the heat stroke
  • You can fan the dog and spread their fur open using your fingers, run your fingers through the coat to lift it up and help the air to flow through.

Most importantly get your dog to a veternarian as soon as possible. They may ask you to bring the dog in because there could be internal damage.  It is best to have a check-up to be reassured of the all clear.

For more information about first aid for your pets visit our web site: https://www.communityanimalhosp.com/pet-resources/articles.html

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