dog heat stroke is a big problem during the summer
Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Much of the United States seemed to go directly from a brutally cold winter to brutal summer temperatures. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, areas of the United States tied — or broke — nearly 8,6000 daily heat records in May.

During these days we tend to do as much as we can indoors, but our furry friends don’t always have that luxury, especially dogs who need to venture outdoors to go to the bathroom. And, unfortunately, those short walks can lead to dog heat stroke.

Never heard of dog heat stroke? You’re not alone: Dogs are animals and are, seemingly, made to adapt to extreme temperatures. However, dog heat stroke can come on a lot faster than you think — and it can kill.

What are dog heat stroke symptoms?

Dog heat stroke aoccurs when a pet’s normal body functions can’t keep its internal temperature in check. It can lead to minor symptoms (like thirst and exhaustion) to gastrointestinal upset, internal organ dysfunction, internal bleed, infection and death, according to The Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA).


The key to preventing dog heat stroke symptoms? Keep a close eye on your pet to spot the first signs of a problem.

How to spot dog heat stroke symptoms

"Don’t depend on your pet to let you know when they are overheating," said Christine New, DVM, a TVMA member who practices at Hillside Veterinary Clinic in Dallas. "At the early stages of overheating, intervention by pet owners can prevent mild overheating from progressing to heatstroke."

Pets can’t sweat, meaning they can’t control their body temperatures like we do and the symptoms of dog heat stroke develop a lot faster because of it. If you do take your dog out, the TVMA advises you to be on the lookout for:

—Rapid breathing

—A bright red tongue

—Bright red or pale gums

—Thick saliva

—Staggering or stumbling


—Refusing to walk

How to prevent dog heat stroke

It’s not always possible to keep your pooch indoors during hot days, but you should avoid exercising or walking your pet during peak hours, like late morning and afternoon, when it’s over 80 degrees with 90 percent humidity — that’s when the risk is highest for dog heat stroke.

If you do have to leave your furry friend outside, help avoid dog heat stroke by leaving them a lot of water and plenty of shade. If you have the space, you should also create a cooling source for your dog, like a small kid pool filled with cool water. You can also leave bottles or bags of cold water wrapped in towels for your dog to lie on.

And it should go without saying, but never leave your pet in a car, especially on hot days. Dog heat stroke can happen even on relatively mild days: A 78-degree outdoor temperature can turn into 120-plus degrees inside a car.

Is cat heat stroke a danger, too?

Yes, cat heat stroke can happen in the summer, too, especially for those allowed to roam free during the day. Symptoms of cat heat stroke include restlessness, drooling, vomiting, lethargy and panting, according to TVMA.

Take quick action if you see the signs of a dog heat stroke

Time is not on your side if you see the symptoms of dog heat stroke. Move your dog to a shaded area immediately and cool with water, breeze or a nearby fan. Give your dog access to plenty of water, but don’t make him drink if he doesn’t want to.

Your best bet is to head to the vet if you think it’s dog heat stroke. Better to be safe than sorry.