First Aid for Dogs: Preventing and Treating Heatstroke


Heatstroke is a serious condition that can be life-threatening for your dog. It occurs when the body can’t get rid of excess heat and becomes overheated, causing damage to vital organs. There are several ways to prevent your dog from getting heatstroke. Keep them hydrated with cool water and ice cubes. Avoid feeding them salty foods — they might want it but they don't need it! Keep their fur clean to avoid skin burns caused by dirt or dust (or in some cases even sun). Don’t leave them in their car unattended during hot weather. Check on them regularly — like every 20 minutes or so — so you know if they're getting hotter than usual. If you notice any signs of heatstroke, take immediate action!

What is Heatstroke?

Heatstroke is a serious condition that occurs when a dog's body temperature rises to dangerous levels, causing damage to the brain and other organs. It is usually caused by exposure to high temperatures, but can also be associated with strenuous exercise and certain medications.

If you suspect that your dog is suffering from heatstroke, follow these steps:

  • Remove your dog from the source of heat and place him in a cooler spot.
  • Provide water if he is able to drink it (if not, seek veterinary attention immediately).
  • Cover your dog with a cool, damp towel or spray him with water from a hose until his body temperature is normal again; remove cooling measures only when they are no longer needed--for example, if using ice packs on an ear flap or tail area--and don't put them back on until they have warmed up again!

Signs of Heatstroke

  • Excessive panting
  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Increased heart rate
  • Vomiting or diarrhea (often bloody)

If you suspect that your dog has heatstroke, it's important to act quickly. Your veterinarian will want to know if there have been any changes in behavior or appetite recently; this information can help determine the cause of their symptoms.

They'll also want to know if your dog has been exposed to any new chemicals or toxins. If they have, it's likely that there was an interaction between the toxin and heat that caused their symptoms.

Preventing Heatstroke

There are a number of ways you can help prevent heatstroke in your dog. First, keep them in the shade whenever possible, especially if it's hot out and there's no breeze to cool them down. Make sure they have plenty of water to drink and don't leave them in an enclosed area where they won't be able to cool off easily (like a car).

If you're going on a long walk or hike with your pet and it looks like it might get hot out there, consider cutting back on how far you go--it's better than having an overheated dog! Also, keep an eye on your pooch while exercising; if he starts panting heavily or showing any signs of distress such as weakness or lethargy, stop immediately so he can rest before continuing again later when things have cooled off some more. If needed, use cool--but not cold--water from around 5 degrees Celsius/41 Fahrenheit up until his normal body temperature returns again after about 20 minutes.[1]

Treating a Dog with Heatstroke

  • Take the dog to a cool place. If you can, bring your dog inside and prop him up in front of fans or air conditioning until he feels better.
  • Give him water if he's able to drink it on his own (if not, check out our tips for giving water to an overheated dog).
  • Cool down with water and fans: If possible, dip your pooch's paws in cool water; this will help circulate more blood through their body and bring down their internal temperature faster than simply standing around would do alone. You should also aim several fans at them--again, this will help circulate air around them so they don't become dehydrated while trying too hard not to fall over from heat exhaustion!


If you're concerned that your dog may be overheating, take the following steps:

  • Check their body temperature by placing a thermometer under their tongue or between their paw pads. If it's over 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 C), they're suffering from heatstroke and need to see a vet immediately.
  • Keep them cool by spraying them with water or putting them in front of a fan; if possible, take them outside where there is shade and plenty of fresh air.
  • Watch out for signs of dehydration--loose stools and excessive panting are two common indicators that your pet needs to drink more water!


If your dog is showing signs of heatstroke, get him to a vet as soon as possible. This condition is life-threatening and can be fatal if not treated immediately. If you're unsure if your dog has heatstroke or not, take him to the vet for a checkup and diagnosis immediately!


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