Heat Stress & Your Pets

What can I do in hot weather to prevent heatstroke in my pet?

With extended daylight and warmer weather, more people are enjoying the great outdoors with their pets. However, it is important to be aware of the dangers of heatstroke.

Heatstroke is a life threatening condition caused by the elevation of a pet’s body temperature. This can lead to multiple organ failure and animals can die quickly from heatstroke.
While some pets are more prone to heat stroke (Brachycephalic breeds of dogs with short muzzles e.g. British Bulldogs and Pugs), all pets can be affected.

If a pet doesn’t have access to cool air when the outside temperatures are high, or they are in a confined environment without fresh airflow – they are at risk of overheating.
This is because a dog expels excess heat by panting, which moves cool air through the nasal passages and around the body.


Early signs of heatstroke include:

  • High body temperature (more than 40 degrees)
  • Distress
  • Excessive panting
  • Excess saliva
  • Bluish-purple or bright red gums, due to inadequate oxygen supply to the tissues.

What to do if your pet is showing signs of Heatstroke:

If your dog’s body temperature reaches above 40 degrees or it is exhibiting the above symptoms, apply immediate first aid. The most important thing is to get his or her body temperature down to a normal level.

  • Ensure your dog has plenty of fresh water at all times
  • Seek veterinary attention.
  • Get them in the car and run the air conditioning to keep them cool.
  • Use a spray bottle to lightly cool them with water. Do not submerge your pet in ice water as this can be more dangerous.

Heatstroke is a serious condition that requires immediate attention and intensive care is generally required to save your pet’s life. Intravenous fluids cool the body, maintain blood pressure, support the kidney system and generally help speed recovery. Any initial home treatment greatly increases the chance of surviving but it is only in mild cases that the initial home treatment is sufficient.

Preventing Heatstroke:

  • Never leave your pet unattended in a car. Within ten minutes, a closed car can reach temperatures of 45 degrees. In such temperatures, a dog is unable to shed its extra heat and may quickly suffer dehydration and heatstroke. If you are getting out of the car, take your dog with you.
  • Keep your dog well hydrated. Ensure your dog has easy access to fresh water. Water dishes should be placed in the shade or kept cold.
  • Carry water.  When exercising your dog, take a collapsible water dish or run a route where you know your dog will have access to clean water.
  • Provide shade. Make sure you have adequate shade to shelter him or her from the sun during the day. Remember this also applies when your dog is in the back of a ute.
  • Avoid walking on hot days. During the summer months, walk your dog of a morning or an evening. Temperatures below 25 degrees are optimum.