Dogs and Heat Stroke

Ever wonder what it feels like for a dog helplessly trapped in a hot car? Watch this brief video by Veterinarian Ernie Ward to get an idea:

Within just 30 minutes, even with the windows cracked, the temperature inside the car climbed to a sweltering 117 degrees.

While most of us here in the Northwest are hopeful that we will finally get some true summer weather, pet owners need to be aware of the risks of heatstroke (hyperthermia) that can occur on hot summer days.

dog in car

Heat stroke can be a life-threatening condition…  it requires immediate treatment

Heatstroke occurs when a pet’s body absorbs more heat than it is able to release and the pet’s internal temperature increases above normal levels. A dog’s normal body temperature is 101.5 -102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Any pet that cannot cool himself off is at risk of heat stroke.


  • Distressed, restless behavior
  • Panting and/or drooling excessively
  • Labored breathing
  • Gums may be dry and tacky, and also may appear bright red, blue or purple
  • Loss of coordination (unsteady on his feet)
  • Shaking, tremors or collapse
  • Vomiting, diarrhea

Dog heat stroke


  • Immediately remove the pet from the hot area.
  • Move pet to a cool area and direct a fan on the pet if possible.
  • Obtain a rectal temperature if you can, and write it down to tell your veterinarian.
  • Begin to cool the pet by placing cool, wet towels on the back of the neck, under the front armpits and groin area of the pet. You can also wet the paws with cool water.
  • *Never use ice or ice-cold water, and never immerse your pet in water (this can cause blood vessels to constrict and actually keep the pet from cooling down).
  • Have cool water available if your pet wants to drink, but never force water into your pet’s mouth.
  • Transport the pet immediately to your veterinarian or nearest emergency clinic.


  • Never leave your animal unattended in the car on warm days, even for a few minutes, or even with the windows cracked. On a 70 degree day the temperature inside a parked car can increase to dangerous levels in a very short period of time.
  • Make sure your pet has access to shade and plenty of water when outdoors on hot days.
  • Restrict strenuous activity and exercise on hot days, and always monitor your pet closely in hot weather.
  • Do not muzzle your dog on hot days, as panting is the way they cool themselves.

Note: some breeds, and flat-nosed dogs are more susceptible to heatstroke, such as Pugs and Bulldogs.

Always contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice any of the above symptoms or if you are concerned that your pet may be suffering from heatstroke.


About Bothell Pet Hospital

Since 1954, Bothell Pet Hospital has been operating as an independent small animal hospital, providing primary veterinary care to cats and dogs in Bothell, Lake City, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Woodinville, Mill Creek, Kirkland, Brier, and other surrounding neighborhoods.
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