Again and again, you can read in the news that a dog has to be rescued from an overheated car during the summer months. Many dog ​​owners are not even aware that the temperatures inside a car can skyrocket in a very short time. This can be life-threatening for your dog.

Not only in a car, but also outdoors, too much sun or heat is a danger to your dog. Just like us humans, dogs can also get heatstroke or sunstroke. Therefore, you should know how to protect your dog from the heat and what to do in an emergency.

In this post, I will guide you through the first aid measures for heatstroke and sunstroke in dogs.

Here’s a general summary: an overview of first aid for dogs

Heatstroke in Dogs

Aren’t heatstroke and sunstroke the same thing? No, there is a difference between the two.

Heatstroke is caused by high temperatures that a dog can not escape. In this situation, its body temperature rises to dangerous levels that can damage multiple organs, which can be fatal in the worst case. The decisive factor for heatstroke is the temperature of the environment, not direct sunlight.

The brain of your dog overheats when it suffers from sunstroke. That is not due to the ambient temperature, but rather the direct sunlight on your dog’s head or neck. A sunstroke can also be life-threatening.

a dog is sluggish
The heat also makes the dog sluggish.

Dogs are susceptible to sunstroke because they do not sweat all over their skin just like us. They sweat through their paws and tongue. To cool off when the heat strikes, they pant heavily and lose a lot of body fluids. If they are unable to drink at high temperatures, they can have a circulatory breakdown or heatstroke. It happens not only in the blazing sun but also in the shade for some animals.

For example, a car heats up in no time at high temperatures without being in direct sunlight. The same goes for other shady places where the heat builds up. It is particularly stressful not only for sick dogs, but also for old dogs because their organism is partially weakened. It is therefore important to ensure that they drink enough water and can retreat to a cool place as possible.

But even healthy dogs are troubled by hot temperatures. Therefore, you should never move longer walks or physical activities to lunchtime, but rather to the early morning or evening.

What to do If Your Dog Has a Heatstroke

Of course, it is important that you are aware of a possible heat stroke in your dog. The following symptoms can be a sign of heatstroke:

  • A very quick and shallow breath
  • Your dog is staggering with imbalance
  • Your dog passes out
  • His body temperature is increased
  • A rapid pulse
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Your dog is exhausted and reacts sluggishly
  • Glassy eyes

What you need to do is cool down your dog. First, make sure that your dog is moved to the shade immediately and offer him cool water (not ice-cold water) to drink. Make sure he drinks slowly instead of drinking a large amount of water at once. It is best to hand him the water in small portions.

Place cool, damp towels around your dog’s neck, head, and groin area. Replace the towels as soon as they get warm. Also, cool his paws and legs with water. Remember to cool your dog from the bottom up, because that protects the circulation. Do not just pour cold water over your dog’s body. This sudden cooling is too huge a burden for the organism and can lead to a collapse of the circulatory system.

a dog drinks water
Make sure that your dog always has enough water available to drink at any time

If your dog can walk on its own, you can also let it walk carefully through water. Keep a close eye on your pet dog at all times. If your dog passes out, lay him on his side in a stable position.

Is your dog already unconscious or about to lose consciousness? Then you have to cool it faster! It is ideal if you have running cold water to soak it completely wet down to the skin.

If your dog has suffered a heat stroke, it is essential that you take him to a veterinarian after taking the emergency measures.

Sunstroke In Dogs

Sunstroke is a little more insidious than heatstroke. Why? Because it can also take place when the temperature is not that high. The decisive factor is actually the direct sunlight on the head or neck of your dog. It is possible that your dog is sitting in an air-conditioned car, but the sun is still shining directly on its head. Just imagine that you are stuck in a traffic jam for a long time and your dog cannot escape the sun in the car. Despite the pleasant temperature, there is still a risk for him. Overheating can cause swelling in the brain, in which fluid is deposited – a life-threatening situation. Another consequence of sunstroke is meningitis.

It is even possible that your dog suffers from both sunstroke and heatstroke when exposed to both heat and direct sun.

dogs socialize
When it is hot, dogs need plenty of water to cool off.

Consequences of Sunstroke In Your Dog

This can range from dehydration to death. The consequences of sunstroke may include:

  • Salts loss
  • Internal bleeding
  • Liver failure
  • Renal insufficiency
  • Stroke
  • Multiple organ damage
  • Coma
  • Death
a dog passes out
The heatstoke could cause your dog to pass out.

How to Do the Right Thing In Case of A Sunstroke In Your Dog

Symptoms of sunstroke are similar to those of heatstroke and include the following signs:

  • Your dog passes out
  • Stumbles with imbalance
  • Breathes quickly and shallowly
  • High pulse rate
  • High body temperature
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Tachycardia
  • Excessive and fluctuating gasps

In contrast to heat stroke, a dog suffering from sunstroke usually has a normal body temperature. However, it is necessary to cool it down as gently as possible with damp cloths and cool water. Self-cooling cold compress is also helpful. Place the towels on the neck and head, and keep the paws and legs wet with cool water. You should never pour a bucket of cold water over the dog. After cooling down, you should take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

an old dog
Old dogs are more susceptible to sunstroke.

How to Prevent Heat Stroke or Sun Stroke In Your Dog

Both heatstroke and sunstroke can be avoided if you follow a few basic measures. It is important that you should not infer the body temperature of your dog from your own heat sensation. What is bearable for you may be too much for him. Because dogs sweat differently from us humans, heat is a greater burden for them.

1.Avoid all strenuous activities for your dog in the heat, including sports, intensive interaction with other dogs or yourself.

2.Make sure your dog always has enough water available and can drink at any time – even on the go.

3.Always let your dog walk in the shade on hot days. This also applies if you are talking with other people while walking.

4.Never leave your dog alone in the parked car in hot temperatures. This article explains how your dog can stay alone in the car.

5.Always secure your dog in the shade, not in the sun.

6.When driving a car, make sure that your dog can protect itself from direct sun.

dog has a heat stroke in a car
Pay attention to your dog when in the car during Summer months


Sunstroke and heat stroke are two emergencies that can be avoided. Should it happen anyway, slow cooling is especially important so as not to overwhelm your dog’s circulatory system. In both cases, it is advisable to go to the vet after taking immediate measures, as the consequences can be life-threatening. During the hot months, you need common sense and take the proper measures so that you and your dog can get through the summer safely.