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11 Warning Signs Your Dog Is Suffering from Heat Stroke

Spotting heat stroke in dogs isn't always easy. Veterinarians say these are the signs every dog owner should know.

A Boston Terrier puppy lays on an armchair with a sad expression on his face/Sad EyesC_Gara/Shutterstock

Your pup is a “brachy”

In general, dogs don’t have efficient cooling systems—they can’t sweat, like humans, and they can heat up quickly. Worst among the breeds are brachycephalics, or brachys: Any dog with a flat, wide skull and a short nose—think Boston terriers, Pekingese, Shi Tzus, Pugs, and Bulldogs—will be more prone to heatstroke. That adorable face has a lot crammed into a small space, and the crowding of the soft tissues, tongue, and cartilage restricts airflow. When it’s a scorcher outside, it becomes more difficult for them because they can’t pant and breathe as efficiently to cool themselves down. Check out the common health problems for popular dog breeds.

French bulldog with smiley faces lay down on grass. Happy dog portrait with copy space.immstudio/Shutterstock

Your dog is hyper

Members of the working class breeds such as golden retrievers, border collies, and Labs will play and work in the heat; not having a clue they are overheating until they collapse. “While their focused, intense work ethic makes them excellent working dogs, owners must monitor these dogs closely to watch for symptoms of overheating,” warns veterinarian Ashley Rossman DVM of Glen Oak Dog & Cat Hospital in Glenview, Illinois. Here are 10 other silent signs your healthy dog isn’t feeling so good.

Close up laying french bulldog. The dog is looking to the camerabozsja/Shutterstock

Your pooch is pudgy

Heat stroke in dogs is something to pay particularly close attention to if your dog is carrying some extra pounds. According to one study of dogs treated for heat stroke, obesity nearly tripled the risk of death. The extra layers of fat in overweight dogs act as insulation and impede the ability to cool down. If your dog needs to shed a few pounds, check out these dog food brands vets feed their own dogs.

Dog breed Siberian Husky walking in autumn forestdezy/Shutterstock

Your dog has a coat that’s dark, long, or thick

You know that dark surfaces absorb more heat than ones, and the same is true for your pup. “I do not have clinical studies to prove this,” says Dr. Rossman, “but in my clinical experience dogs with dark or long thick hair coats may have difficulty in the warmer months. Huskies, Malamutes, American Eskimo dogs do not do well in the heat and should be carefully monitored when outdoors in the hot summer months.” If your dog is acting strangely, find out the reason for your dog’s weird behavior.

Dog tail on wood flooriRichPhoto/Shutterstock

Your dog is running a fever

One clear sign of heat stroke in dogs is body temperature. But the only way to know for sure is to take his temperature rectally. Dr. Rossman recommends purchasing a separate dog-only thermometer as well as thermometer covers and lubricating gel. If the rectal temperature exceeds 105° call your vet immediately. Not sure you can do the rectal method? The next best thing is an ear thermometer made specifically for animals. It’s not quite as accurate so make sure to alert your vet if you take the temp this way. It’s worth taking this extra step for your pooch: Check out all the major health benefits dog owners reap.

Portrait of the golden retriever in outdoor situationzagart116/Shutterstock

Your dog is bleeding

“Bleeding can be seen from any part of the body surface if heat stroke is severe enough,” says Dr. Rossman. “Hyperthermia can cause the body to stop producing the proteins it needs to make the blood clot and it can also make it more susceptible to bacterial and toxins.” One indicator of heat stroke is uncontrolled bloody diarrhea, Dr. Rossman points out. Check out the reason why dogs lean on you.

Close Up of Dog Nose Looking Up with Mouth Open - Shallow Depth of FocusAuKirk/Shutterstock

Your pooch is panting really loud

Dogs pant to regulate their body temperature. However, if the panting sounds louder or harsher and your pooch seems to be working harder to breathe and has a wide-open mouth, it’s another sign of heat stroke in dogs. Speaking of signs, your pooches tail has a few of its own. Here’s what your pup’s tail is trying to tell you.

Caucasian Shepherd Alabai LargeVladimir Konstantinov/Shutterstock

Your pup is drooling more than usual

When your dog is panting, it inevitably drools, and you can expect a bit more panting and drool after exercise. It’s your dog’s way of dissipating the extra heat. But when the drooling is a constant stream, it’s another sign she could have heat stroke. Excessive drooling is also a sign your dog could have been poisoned from something in your own backyard. Eliminate these common backyard dangers right away!

Puppy laying on it's back in the green grasspavlinas/Shutterstock

Your dog is acting weird

The symptoms of heat stroke in dogs can often resemble a drunk person. Your dog may be in a stupor, disoriented, and staggering about—or even collapse, says Dr. Rossman. These symptoms alone warrant a call to the vet, but if your dog has been exposed to high heat it could be heat stroke related. Find out the 15 training secrets dog trainers won’t tell you for free. 

Male Breton Dogtsik/Shutterstock

Your pups chest is expanding quickly

A high heart rate and a chest expanding quickly are indicators of heat stroke in dogs. Taking your pet’s pulse is a little tricky; checking the respiratory rate is an easier alternative. “Respiratory rates can be checked by watching how many times the chest expands and contracts in the course of ten seconds. Then multiply by six,” says Dr. Rossman. The normal respiratory rate is 10-30 bpm, but since that varies with breed ask your vet what your a healthy rate is—and what rate can indicate danger. On the other hand, if your dog seems especially calm and tired, find out why they’re yawning so much.

Drooling Irish Setter dog panting in a hot SummerReddogs/Shutterstock

Your dog has muddy or pale mucous membranes

If your dog is already drooling like a faucet and panting, this might get messy; but if you check your dogs’ mucous membranes, you may be able to identify another sign of heat stroke in dogs. Gently, pull back the upper lips and take a look at the gums. They should be pink and moist, not muddy or pale, explains Dr. Rossman says. However, some breeds, like a Saint Bernard, have naturally dark gums. In that case, get to the vet, who will likely check the inner eyelids. Take a peak at why your dog is panting.

Ill retriever in veterinary clinic.Olimpik/Shutterstock

Act fast

“Quick action is needed to save the life of a dog suffering from heatstroke,” says integrative veterinarian, Carol Osborne, DVM of Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center and Pet Clinic in Ohio. “Permanent brain and organ damage can occur when the body temperature reaches or exceeds 106 degrees.” If heatstroke is severe and left untreated, coma and death can occur. Call your vet immediately and start cooling down your dog. “Soak him in cool or lukewarm water and offer cool fluids but do not force-feed water,” says Dr. Osborne. It’s important to bring down the temperature gradually. If a tub isn’t an option, Dr. Rossman says, wrap your dog in towels soaked in lukewarm water. Never place your dog in an ice bath—that will cause blood vessels to constrict, slowing blood flow and interfering with cooling. Don’t miss these 28 summer health tips all dog owners should follow.

Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, HealthiNation, The Family Handyman, Taste of Home, and Realtor.com., among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center. Follow her on Instagram @lisamariewrites4food and Twitter @cornish_conklin.