Your Guide to Shih Tzu Heat Stroke

Heat Stroke in Shih Tzu Dogs: A medical Emergency

Shih Tzu Heat Stroke is a dangerous condition and may be more common than you think, especially if you live in a warm climate. 

by Janice Jones     |Last updated 02-05-2021

Shih Tzu, like all dogs with short flat noses (brachycephalic), may have difficulty breathing and may overheat, especially in hot weather.

Shih Tzu dogs tolerate cold weather far better than warm days.

Pets with the tiniest nostrils have the greatest problems during hot weather. These are the dogs with pinched nostrils or stenotic nares.

This is a medical emergency and needs immediate attention.

Risk Factors for Shih Tzu Heat Stroke

  •  Exposure to hot conditions
  •  The very young puppy or old senior
  • Obesity
  • Heart or lung problems
  • Brachycephalic syndrome (Shih Tzu)
  • Thick long coat (trim your Tzu’s hair short in the summer)
  • Insufficient water intake


The Cause is extreme exposure to excessive heat and the signs may include: 

  • Panting
  • Increased body temperature
  • Red tongue
  • Pale gums
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Depression or Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures or tremors
  • Shock
  • Coma
  • Death

This is a life-threatening emergency and first aid must be administered immediately. 

First Aid for Shih Tzu Heat Stroke

  • If you notice any symptoms or they begin to loose their balance, pick them up and transport to a cooler area. Place them in a  cool bath.  (Not Cold). A garden hose will do in the case of an emergency.   Do not try to cool too quickly as this can be dangerous. 
  • Use wet towels if a bath is not available

  • Use a rectal thermometer to check temperatures about every 5 minutes.  As soon as he reaches a temperature of 103, stop cooling him and dry him off.  Never use ice or very cold water.
  • Once you have lowered his temperature to 103, you can then transport him to your nearest emergency veterinarian.  (The normal temperature of a dog is 101-102 degrees F.)

Treatment at the Veterinary Hospital

Your dog will be re-hydrated with fluids and monitored for shock.  The vet may also provide additional oxygen for him. 

The vet may need to low the temperature, and if so, a cold-water enema may be given.  Special diets may be recommended, or IV fluids given until the dog can eat solid foods. 

Most dogs recover, but they may be left more susceptible to heat stroke later on.  Inpatient hospitalization is often indicated.

The Best Medicine is Prevention

All over the world, we are facing increasingly hotter temperatures due to global warming, and keeping your Shih Tzu outdoors or in a hot car is considered cruel and unusual punishment. 

Shih Tzu dogs should never be kept outdoors in the summer for any length of time.  Keeping a dog confined in a hot car during the summer is a sure death sentence.  Your dog needs extra water in the hot weather and if you must be out with your dog during extreme temperatures, find a shady spot for your dog to rest. 

Jogging or running is not a good idea in hot weather and can lead to heat stroke.  When indoors, use air conditioning for this breed, but in lieu of that, use fans to help keep your pouch and you comfortable.  Sometimes just wetting him down will help keep him cool. 

A kiddie size pool is a welcome relief from the heat for some Shih Tzu dogs, although not all will enjoy such activities.  Add about one to two inches of water to the pool, and supervise any swimming activities.  Some Shih Tzu love to crunch on ice cubes that have been added to their water bowl.

In Hot Weather, Your Shih Tzu Should:

  • Stay indoors in cool rooms (air conditioning or fans)

  • Limit exercise 

  • Take walks early or late in the day when the air temperature is lower

  • Have a Trimmed Hair Style

  • Drink extra water

  • Nibble on Ice cubes in the water bowl as a treat for some

  • Splash in a kiddie pool with one or two inches of water keep some dogs cool

NEVER leave your dog in a hot car, even if the windows are partially opened.

The Good News!  Shih Tzu Dogs are Extremely Smart

A gold and white Shih Tzu is resting comfortably on a register blowing out cool air.This is Mobie, a very smart Shih Tzu

If your dog is just hot after a romp in the back yard or a walk in the neighborhood, they know what they need to do to cool off.  Some will head straight to the water bowl, but this clever Shih Tzu has learned where the coolest place in the house is located and goes straight there to cool off.

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About Janice

Janice is the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu. Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, she served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu.

When not writing, reading, or researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, her husband, and her family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Small Dog Place and smart knit crocheting.