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With meteorologists claiming that Australia has experienced its hottest last 12 months on record, it is no wonder that we should be expecting a very hot and dry Summer. As the mercury soars, it is important to monitor your pets to ensure that they do not overheat and end up suffering from heat stroke. Heat stroke (also known as heat stress) is where an animals body temperature rises to critical levels due to their inability to expel heat at a faster rate than heat generation.  Heat stroke can result in your pet suffering from brain damage, multiple organ failure, and ultimately death. For example, for cats and dogs, their normal body temperature revolves around 37-39 degrees Celsius but if this rises to 40-41 degrees Celsius or higher than they may start suffering from heat stroke. Common causes of heat stroke can be due to your pet engaging in physical activity in a humid environment without staying hydrated or they are locked in a secure enclosure without adequate ventilation or water, like a car. 

What are the signs of Heat Stroke?

The following are symptoms/signs that your pet may be suffering from heatstroke:

  • Body temperature at 40 degrees or higher
  • Fever
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Heavy panting, drooling
  • Blank stare on their face
  • Agitated or anxious behaviour
  • Tongue and gums become brick red/dark and/or sticky
  • Holding out its wings from its body and panting. Swaying unsteadily on their perch. (birds only)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Wobbliness or staggering in movement
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizure and/or Coma

Effective treatment for pet’s suffering heat stroke

If you believe your pet has heat stroke, it is imperative to perform immediate countermeasures to lower their body temperature and prevent further damage (if any) to their body’s internal organs.

  • Move your pet to a cooler dark area (i.e. bathroom or laundry in your home).
  • Spray room temperature water on your pet or cover them with damp towels. If possible, have your pet stand or sit in a bathtub, kiddie play pool or small container. Do not give your pet ice cold water as this dramatic change in temperature can be an added shock to their system. For dogs, it is recommended to focus on continually keeping their feet damp as this is where they expel most of their heat.
  • Try to coax your pet to drink water.
  • Moderate their body temperature to ensure that you do not reduce it to below average levels.
  • Contact your local veterinarian so they are well informed of the situation and are prepared for your pets arrival at the clinic. The vet will carefully review your pet’s vital signs and commence immediate therapy such as IV fluids.

Tips on preventing heatstroke in pets


  •  If your pet’s are mainly left outdoors, provide ample shade so that it covers all parts of the day as trees are not always reliable.
  •  Ensure that a few bowls of water is left out for your pet (routinely refilled with ice/cool water) and out of direct sunlight.
  •  Hose/spray your pet with water regularly on hot days (although cats may not like this idea).
  •  When exercising your pet, it is recommended to take them early in the morning or very late in the afternoon.
  •  On days when the mercury soars (above 30 degrees), it is preferable to keep your pet indoors.
  •  If you think leaving your pet in a car with the window’s open a bit is a safe option, then you are drastically mistaken. As most of us are aware that it is against the law to leave your children unsupervised in the car; the same consideration must be taken for your pets. A car’s inside temperature can dramatically increase within a few minutes to stifling levels. Even if you park in the shade, on hot days a car’s indoor temperature can still elevate quickly. Best to either take your pet outside or leave them in comfort at home.
  • Small animals such as rabbits, ferrets, birds, mice and guinea pigs are just as likely to suffer form heat stroke as larger pets. Smaller animals are typically housed in cages or hutches and are thus unable to relocate themselves to a cooler area on their own free will. It is highly recommended to be extra vigilant by monitoring their water containers and moving their enclosure to a well ventilated, cool and shaded place such as a laundry.  For birds that are kept in an outdoors aviary, implementing sufficient sun protection as well as regularly spraying them with water is also viable option.

If you think your pet has head stroke or you would like to know more about prevention for your particular type of pet please do not hesitate to contact one of our friendly vets at the clinic for further assistance.