Heat Stroke in Dogs – Prevention and First Aid

Heat Stroke in dogs is a very important subject to know about as a pet owner living in Southern Europe. Never underestimate the risks of heat stroke in dogs especially in the hot summers of the Algarve region! In this article we will learn how to recognise the symptoms of Heat Stroke in dogs, how to avoid it and what to do in case it happens. This article is also extremely important for those relocating with their dog to the Algarve.

heat stroke in dogs

What is Heat Stroke?

Heat Stroke happens when the dog’s body temperature rises above its maximum tolerated level. Heat stroke is so dangerous, because it will make your dog’s vital body processes and chemistry unable to function. If not corrected quickly, a heat stroke can be fatal to your dog.

Symptoms of heat stroke in dogs

The symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Drowsiness
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Collapsing

How to Prevent Heat Stroke?

Of course, to prevent heat stroke in dogs you should keep your pet cool. Just common sense, right?! But read on carefully, because not all the advice below may sound so obvious!

Avoid the heat

Obviously, the best prevention for heat stroke in dogs is to try to avoid the heat altogether. Consider walking your dog early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the hottest part of the day.

Carry plenty of water

Always carry more water than you think your dog will need. In any case, it is better to have more rather than ending without! Don’t risk it. We always play safe and always carry five litres of water on our dog walks since we have more than one dog wit us. In your case half a litre of water should suffice for most walks. Never store water in plastic bottles. Plastic bottles release chemicals into the water. It is very unhealthy to reuse plastic bottles. We always use stainless steel bottles because they are totally safe and do not break. In addition stainless steel keeps water cooler. Do your dog a favour and stick to stainless steel bottles such as the one below.

High Capacity Portable Stainless Steel Dog Water Bottle 750 ml

Control the drinking

Always regulate your dogs’s drinking especially when very hot and thirsty. When very thirsty dogs have a tendency to drink a lot of water in one go. But this is just wasteful and also dangerous! Small sips are safer than big gulps.

dog drinking from bottle

In reality, drinking too much water too quickly will not allow the dog’s body to absorb the water efficiently. In addition, dogs that gulp down a lot of water can end up vomiting. This not only wastes water reserves on the walk but also stresses the dog. Moreover, it can be very dangerous if dogs run and exercise on a full stomach! Doing so increases the chance of suffering a bloat. A very serious condition hat can kill your dog in a matter of hours!


On hot days, consider changing your walking route to include some swimming or splashing in the sea or a lake. In this way your dog can stay cool throughout the walk and avoid the chances of heat stroke. Take your dog to the beach, there are plenty of dog friendly beaches in Portugal.

Some dogs may not be very good swimmers and certain breeds have difficulty staying afloat. For instance, French Bulldogs are known to struggle in the water due to their short stocky legs and compact body. A swimming aid, or as others may call it “a dog life jacket” will help such dogs swim safely. If you take your dog with you on your boat, then this is definite a must have item!

Do Swimming Aide, Reflective Float Vest For Dogshappy dog at the beach

Get a cooling vest

A cooling vest can do wonders in keeping dogs cool and prevent heat stroke. All you need to do is soak it in water and put it on your dog during the walk. The water in the specifically designed fabric will absorb the heat of your dog’s body and evaporate. This evaporation process is what keeps your dog cool. We use these vests on our dogs and definitely recommend them. They are worth every penny and are one of the must have items for dogs living in hot climates such as the Algarve.

Dog Cooling Vest by Truelove. Adjustable Chest, Reflective Mesh & Padded Vest

dog with cooing vest

Heat Stroke First Aid?

Should your dog overheat and show symptoms of heat stroke, here is what you should to help increase the odds of survival and fast recovery.

Rush your dog to the vet immediately!

Heat stroke in dogs is very serious. It is fatal in the majority of cases. Rush your dog to the vet and seek medical advice immediately! Try to remember as much information as possible to help the vet treat the dog. Keep track of the time your dog went into heat stroke and how the symptoms progressed over time.

Cool down the dog on your way to the vet.

Your first aid response should be to lower your dog’s temperature as much as possible.

DO NOT not throw cold water on the dog!

You should not just hose your dog down with cold water, or even throw a bucket of water. This will only panic him more and risk putting the dog in shock.

Just apply cool water to the dog with a cloth or wet towel. You should focus on your dog’s tongue, ears, neck, legs and paws since a dog radiates heat from these parts of the body more efficiently. If possible, turn on the AC of the car and point the air vent on your dog whilst you are driving to the vet.

The whole idea is to cool your dog as quickly as possible to reduce the effects of heat stroke and help him recover quickly.

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Written by:


Hi I'm Matthew. I am a scientist by profession with particular interest in canine behaviour.

I take time to deliver weekly blog posts relating to various interesting topics about our pets. I am also responsible for our Dog Walking Service and Pet House Sitting Service at Pet Sitting Algarve.