Heatstroke -The hidden dangers of a nice summer day.

Heatstroke can be deadly.

Heatstroke  is a state of hyperthermia (elevated core body temperature) resulting in heat stress injuries to tissues and potentially internal organs.

When an animal is unable to lose the excess heat in their body, they become at risk of heatstroke and this can become deadly fast and requires serious attention.

Animals can develop heatstroke if they are exposed to: or How do pets develop heatstroke?

  • hot, humid environments with inadequate access to shade
  • minimal or lack of fresh drinking water
  • exercise, walks or lots of play on a warm day

Other factors that can cause heatstroke in your pet may include:

  • Pets with flat faces or short snouts (brachycephalic breeds such as French Bulldogs, Pugs, Mastiffs, Shih Tzus, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, Persians, Himalayans, British Shorthairs, Exotics Shorthairs etc)
  • Overweight or obese pets
  • Pets with heart problems
  • Pets with breathing problems
  • Pets with neurological disease
  • Thick or long hair coated pets
  • Extremes in age (young or old)

The signs of heatstroke in your pet:

  • Excessive panting or breathing distress (such as opening their mouth and taking large, shallow breaths)
  • Drooling and/or hypersalivating
  • Agitation, restlessness (Although dogs tend to be greater effected, cats can also get heatstroke and often may pace when in distress)
  • Red tongue
  • Very red or even pale gums
  • Increased heart rate
  • Vomiting and/ or diarrhoea (sometimes with blood)
  • Signs of mental confusion, delirium, dizziness or a staggering walk
  • Weakness and lethargy which can lead to collapse or lying down
  • Muscle tremors which can lead to more severe signs such as seizures
  • Little to no urine production
  • Coma

What to do if you suspect your pet has heatstroke?

  • Get your pet out of the heat immediately!
  • Apply or spray cool water onto their fur and skin. Then apply a fan to maximise heat loss. NEVER use ice-cold water or ice! This may worsen the problem and drop their body temperature too rapidly
  • Wetting down the area around your pet can also help for example if they’re lying on a bed, wet this too.
  • Call your vet and take your pet to the nearest clinic immediately.


Always see a vet, even if your pet looks like they may be recovering as we will need to rule out any possible internal damage to keep your pet safe.

What does a vet do for heatstroke?

  • We do a full physical health exam including checking your pet’s temperature constantly to ensure it is dropping slowly.
  • We assist them by placing them on a drip (intravenous fluids) which also allows us constant access to their veins to administer drugs as needed
  • We apply cooling treatments sometimes even cooling enemas to cool down your pet’s internal temperature
  • If required we offer supplemental oxygen
  • We administer medications as required to support your pet’s body and keep them calm during the stressful situation
  • We run an internal blood test to check their organ function
  • There is also ongoing monitoring and treatment as required throughout their stay and referral available to after hours emergency centres and specialists depending on the severity of the case


The good news is that you can help to prevent heatstroke by ensuring your pets are kept in appropriate environmental conditions and being aware of the symptoms so action can be taken swiftly.

How to prevent heatstroke?

  • Ensure your pets always have access to shade and fresh water
  • Check the weather before your leave your pet for the day and ensure they will be safe when you’re not around
  • Try to keep your pets at a healthy weight
  • Never leave your pets alone in a hot car, even on cold or mild days. The temperature in a car can rise dramatically fast, even if you’re away for a split minute!
  • Avoid going for walks or exercising and playing with your pets on hot days
  • Avoid hot surfaces such as concrete footpaths, sand or surfaces which are in direct sunlight
  • Be aware of the symptoms as mentioned above
  • Have a first aid kit at home for your pet (Available for purchase at the clinic, call 8373 0301 to order)
  • Contact your vet for advice whenever you are unsure or concerned