Heat Stress

Sign up to our newsletter for all the latest pet related news both locally and Australia wide.

Summer is upon us, families are taking advantage of the sunshine and enjoying water and land activities with their pets. One of our Vets Dr Joanna Curry has compiled a few notes on heat stress to help you and your pets make the most of this summer safely.

Heat Stress

Heat stress or hyperthermia may be a life threatening condition, and does require immediate treatment. Heatstroke generally occurs in hot summer weather when dogs are left with inadequate ventilation in hot vehicles and also occur in other conditions including:


  • When an animal is left outdoors in hot/humid conditions without adequate shade or water access.
  • When exercised in hot/humid weather
  • When left in a car even on a relatively cool day.


Other predisposing factors may be obesity and/or diseases affecting a pet's airway. Brachycephalic (short nosed) breeds (Pekingnese, Pug, Boston Terrier etc) may suffer from ineffectual panting that results in an increased body temperature which could be fatal.



  • Initially the pet appears distressed, and will pant excessively and become restless.
  • As hyperthermia progresses, the pet may drool excessively from the mouth and/or nose.
  • The pet may become unsteady on their feet.
  • You may notice the gums turning blue/purple or bright red which is due to decreased oxygen.
  • More severe symptoms can include seizures and vomiting.


What to do:


  • Remove your pet from the environment where heat stress occurred.
  • Move your pet to a shaded and cool area.
  • Begin to cool the body by placing cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits, and in the groin region. You may also wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water. Directing a fan on these wetted areas will help to speed evaporate cooling
  • Transport to the closest Veterinary Hospital immediately.


What NOT to do:

Do not use cold water or ice for cooling (while this may seem logical it is not advised. Cooling the innermost structures of the body will be delayed, as ice or cold water will cause superficial blood vessels to shrink, effectively forming an insulating layer to hold the heat inside. Tap water is more effective for cooling).

Do not attempt to force water into your pets mouth. Have fresh water ready to offer should your pet become alert and show interest in drinking.

Do not leave your pet unattended for any length of time.

Severe hyperthermia affects nearly every system in the body. Simply lowering the body temperature fails to address the potentially catastrophic events that often accompany this condition. A pet suffering hyperthermia should be seen by a Vet as soon as possible.

How to keep your pet cool in summer:

Save your outdoor time with your pet for early in the morning or in the evening once the sun has set. By taking your daily walk, run or visit to the park either before or after the sun is at its hottest, the air will be easier for your pet to breath and the ground will be cooler on the pads of their paws. To check the temperature of the ground for your pet to walk on, see if you can hold the back of your hand against the ground for 5-10 seconds. Remember your pets don't wear shoes, so the pads of their paws can be burned walking across particularly hot sand or asphalt.

Give your pet a shady place to rest out of the sun. 

As much as your pet may love riding in the car or spending time with you, if it's hot out there is a chance they'll be uncomfortable the best thing to do is leave them at home. Panting takes more exertion than sweating and can bring your pet into respiratory distress faster than you think.

Make plenty of fresh clean water available to them. Help replace fluids lost through panting to keep cool by leaving out water or water alternatives. Water alternatives such as frozen broth popsicles are an easy treat your pet will love and will replenish electrolytes.

If your pet is brachycephalic, or has a flat shaped face like Pugs, Pekingnese and Persian cats they cannot pant as effectively and are more susceptible to heat stroke.

Pets which are elderly, over weight or have a heart or lung condition are best kept in air conditioned rooms as much as possible in extreme heat days.

Consider trimming long haired cats and dogs

A clam shell or paddling pool for them to wade in or lie in is great for keeping your dog cool and fun to play i outside.


If you have any concerns or questions please call and speak to one of our friendly, helpful staff on 9550 9600


Post your comment


No one has commented on this page yet.

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments

Recent Blogs

Preventative Dental Care

>> Read more

Raw Food Diets

>> Read more

Cat Vaccinations

>> Read more