Heatstroke in dogs – how to avoid and treat it

Article by veterinarian Sanja Polz

When summer is a long time coming and the temperatures remain cool until the end of May, it can be easy to forget that the hot season is just around the corner. When sudden heat occurs, our faithful companions can struggle a lot. No matter how well you have integrated your dog into your daily routine, please remember that conditions change. Especially during the summer months, our animals suffer from the heat stress and are in danger of experiencing heat strokes.

1. Dogs do not sweat like humans

Dogs can't sweat like we humans do. That is why they have a lower tolerance for heat. Dogs only have sweat glands on their feet and otherwise can only get rid of excess heat by panting. Therefore, it is especially important to provide the dog with enough water. At elevated temperatures even more so, as insufficient amounts of water can cause  the heat to escape less effectively. The optimal amount varies from animal to animal, but dogs are virtually self-regulating. The prerequisite is that enough water is available and consumed by the animal. Often dogs eat less when it is warm. This is normal. It is usually a good idea to change the feeding time to early in the morning or late in the evening.

2. Preventative measures for hot temperatures

Since heat stress is life-threatening and can quickly advance to a heat stroke, you shouldn't let it get that far. Applying preventative measures is definitely better than having to deal with a heat stroke.

  • Avoid walks during the midday heat, when the temperature is at its peak.
  • Always make sure your dog has access to fresh water.
  • Never leave your dog alone in the car! At 24 °C outside temperature, it will be over 30 °C in the car after 10 minutes.
  • Avoid physical exertion when it is very hot.
  • Give your dog opportunities to rest in cool environments, such as air-conditioned rooms, the forest, streams, or the shade of trees.


For our four-legged friends who are particularly sensitive to heat, i.e. all short-nosed breeds and those with very thick fur, cooling mats and cooling blankets are a great help. Giving your dog a summer haircut can also make them feel more comfortable. However, you have to be careful not to cut the coat too short, especially for dogs with fine hair, as they can get sunburned.


3. Possible symptoms of heat stress

Here are some indicators to tell if your pet is exposed to too much heat. 

  • Panting that becomes rapid and shallow
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Pale or gray tongue and mouth mucous membranes
  • Staggering or coordination problems
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Collapse or loss of consciousness

If you notice any of these you need to take immediate action!

4. Immediate measures in case of heat stroke

  • Move the dog to a cool place and away from direct sunlight.
  • Wet the dog with cool water but not cold water.
  • Place a damp towel on the back of the dog and importantly also on the feet and pads of the feet.
  • Encourage the dog to drink water.
  • Seek immediate veterinary assistance.


Heat stroke in dogs is 100% preventable. It's worth considering ahead of time what precautions make sense for your own dog and prepare accordingly. Climate change shows us every year that temperatures around 40 °C are no longer a rarity. Precautions help to ensure that your trusty companion is cared for.


Our expert:

Sanja Polz , BVetMed MRCVS CCRP

Veterinarian Sanja Polz supports us at DOG'S LOVE and CAT'S LOVE with her expertise. After completing her studies at the Royal Veterinary College, London, she went on to receive in-depth specialist training at home and abroad. Meanwhile, Sanja has been running her own practice, CityVet, in Vienna for several years.