What You Should Know About Heat Stroke


By Erika Fauth, DVM – Veterinary Emergency + Critical Care

With temperatures soaring in Las Vegas, heat stroke is something pet owners should be aware of and take preventative measures to avoid. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s usual cooling mechanisms are exhausted, so the body temperature rises above normal.  The normal body temperature of a dog is 100-102°F.  Organ damage begins to occur over 104°F. Signs are more severe the higher the body temperature and the longer the animal remains overheated.  Any organ system can be affected by these high temperatures, but the most common problems include kidney failure, clotting abnormalities, breathing problems, brain swelling, and GI tract damage.  Unfortunately, severe cases of heat stroke can be fatal even with appropriate veterinary care.

Causes of heat stroke include high environmental temperatures, lack of water, strenuous exercise, anxiety or seizures. Breeds at higher risk of heat stroke include brachycephalic breeds (short-noses), breeds with thick coats, and overweight pets.

Prevention of heat stroke is extremely important. During warmer months, activity should be avoided, especially with pets that are at higher risks for developing heat stroke. Provide access to water and shade at all times. Do not leave any pet outside when it is extremely hot or humid. Never leave your pet in the car! Even in cooler weather, the temperature in a car can reach 100°F in 20 minutes and 115°F in an hour.

If you are worried your pet is overheated, immediately move them to a cool location and stop any exercise. If they are having difficulty breathing, they should be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately.