Heatstroke – VETbytes’ do’s and don’ts of treating dogs

Summer is the time of year when we are most likely to be presented with a case of heatstroke. Are you up to date with the do’s and don’ts of active cooling? Use VETbytes to quickly access the information you need to make the right clinical decisions.

Cooling before presentation to the vet is associated with improved survival

  • Advise the owner to begin cooling immediately using either wet towels to wipe/wet the patient or a hose with cool water
  • Recommend that the owners keep the windows open in the car on the way to the surgery

Recommended methods for cooling:

  • Running water – hose, shower
  • Fan (care not to apply near the head and apply lubricant to the eyes to protect the corneas)
  • Place on a cool surface
  • Spray alcohol onto the extremities
  • Cold packs on large vessels (e.g. axilla, groin, jugular)
  • Massaging while active cooling
  • Flow by oxygen
  • Room temperature enema (severe hyperthermia)

Do not:

  • Immerse in water or ice bath
  • Leave wet towels over the patient
  • Use ice-cold water (will result in vasocontriction and discomfort)
  • Place in a small cage
  • Use antipyretics, e.g. NSAIDs as may have multi-organ dysfunction


  • Monitor the temperature every 10 minutes
  • Avoid hypothermia, stop cooling when temperature 39.5°C

Don’t forget that early therapeutic renal support is crucial in heatstroke treatment as AKI is often only observed hours after thermal injury

Subscribe for a free trial to see the complete clinical guide to heatstroke management.

Special offers for BSAVA members. BSAVA members receive exclusive discounts and access to VETbytes. To find out more, click here.

Share this article
Further articles