First Aid for Pets – Heat Stroke

These are first aid tips, please remember it is best to get your pet to the vet as soon as possible.

Heat Stroke is a common reason for a dog to be taken to the emergency vet, and when severe can be fatal. It occurs most commonly when dogs are left in cars, but can also be due to excessive exercise on hot or humid days, or prolonged seizure activity. Dogs cannot sweat through their skin like we can and their major way of reducing body heat is through resting, drinking water, panting and moving themselves into a cooler position (such as a cool floor).

Some dogs are more prone to heat stroke, and it may occur even when the weather does not appear excessively warm. Risk factors for heat stroke include:

  • Breed: brachycephalic dogs (“squashed face”), such as pugs, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, boxers and bulldogs
  • Seizures: especially when uncontrolled, such as in Snail Bait toxicity
  • Underlying heart disease
  • Underlying respiratory tract disease
  • Previous history of heat stroke
  • Sedation
  • Unfit dogs
Heat Stroke can cause many physiological disturbances in the body and can result in:
  • Dehydration
  • Organ failure, especially kidneys and liver
  • Seizures
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Brain swelling and haemorrhage
  • Coma
  • Death (reports of up to 36-50% of severe cases)
If you suspect your dog has heat stroke please:
  • Hose your dog with cool water for 5 minutes BEFORE coming into the vet
  • On the way here keep the air-conditioning on in the car or keep the dog’s coat wet and have the windows down
  • If your dog starts shaking/shivering cover with a towel as the increased muscle activity can worsen the heat stroke
  • If there is a delay in getting to the clinic keep your dog’s coat saturated with running water and place a fan on your dog
  • Do NOT use ice baths
  • Wet towels over a long haired dog will not be effective
Before you come to the vet please ensure: