Signs of canine heatstroke & the perils of hot days


The Ontario SPCA’s No Hot Pets program aims to spread the word that leaving your dog unattended in a car can quickly turn deadly. Hot cars kill, and it can happen far faster than you’d think.

Parked cars can quickly reach deadly temperatures, even on relatively mild days with the car parked in the shade and the windows slightly open. 

Dogs have a limited ability to sweat; even a short time in a hot environment can be life threatening. A dog's normal body temperature is about 103°F (39°C); a body temperature of 106°F (41°C) can be withstood only for a very short time before irreparable brain damage or even death can occur.

PETA shares that every year, dogs suffer and die when their guardians make the mistake of leaving them in a parked car—even for “just a minute”—while they run an errand. Parked cars are deathtraps for dogs: On a 78°F day (25°C), the temperature inside a parked car can soar to between 100° - 120°F (37° - 48°) in just minutes, and on a 90°F (32°C) day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 160°F (71°C) in less than 10 minutes. Animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes. Beating the heat is extra tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves by panting and by sweating through their paw pads.

If you can’t take your pet with you when you leave your car, leave them at home where they are safe. People who choose to leave pets unattended in vehicles may face charges.

If heat stroke is suspected (excessive panting and drooling, listlessness or unconsciousness) prompt veterinary medical attention is vital. In the meantime, wet the fur immediately with lukewarm to cool (not cold!) water. Bring the dog into the shade or, better yet, an air-conditioned environment, and offer drinking water.

If you see a dog in a hot car, immediately call the authorities and don’t leave the scene until the dog has been helped.

Signs of Canine Heatstroke

  • Restlessness
  • Heavy Panting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive drooling
  • Thick saliva
  • Dark tongue/reddened gums
  • Lethargy
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Increased body temperature (above 103° F or 39° C)
  • Fever
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Production of only small amounts of urine or no urine
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of coordination

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