Provided by the RSPCA:

How do you avoid heatstroke for your pets on hot days?

  • Provide pets with a cool, shaded area with good ventilation at all times - adequate ventilation and air flow are important as many animals cool down via evaporative cooling (panting) which requires adequate air flow
  • Provide plenty adequate clean fresh water and extra water sources in case of spillage
  • Bring animals indoors on hot, humid days if the indoor environment is cooler for the animal (air-conditioning, child-safe fans, open windows (where possible) and shade
  • Small animals including rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, birds, rats and mice are highly susceptible to heat stress (which can be fatal). These animals are often confined in cages and hutches and are unable to move away to cooler places. Owners need to move these animals into a cool, shaded and well-ventilated area in hot weather. They also require clean, fresh drinking water at all times. On very hot days you may need to bring them into a cool place indoors, for example the laundry.
  • Do not exercise animals in hot, humid conditions. On hot days try to walk your dog very early in the morning or very late in the afternoon and avoid the hottest part of the day
  • Do not leave your dog in a vehicle - even when the windows are down dogs can still overheat and die. One study found that even on mild days the temperature inside the vehicle rises rapidly to dangerous levels. When the ambient temperature is 22°C the temperature inside a car can rise to over 47°C in 60 minutes. The high temperatures in the car combined with inadequate ventilation/air flow mean that the dog cannot thermo-regulate leaving them vulnerable to over-heating which can be fatal. Animals in these conditions suffer horribly - please don't risk it.

How should you treat a pet with heatstroke?

Veterinary help should be sought ASAP if heat stroke is suspected. Heat stress is an emergency. Given the seriousness of this condition, it is better to be safe than sorry and have the dog checked out by a vet

Initial emergency treatment at home should aim to normalise body temperature. Apply or spray tepid/cool water onto the animal’s fur/skin followed by fanning of the wet fur. Don't use ice-cold water or ice as this may exacerbate the problem

More tips for taking care of pets in hot weather:

  • Dogs travelling on the back of utes are susceptible to burning their footpads/in contact body parts on the ute tray - many of which can get very hot in the sun. Owners need to cover the trays with a suitable material to prevent this problem and provide a shaded area
  • Owners need to be aware of sunburn especially in pets with white, non-pigmented skin and white–coloured coat

Heatstroke or heat stress is defined as a state of extreme hyperthermia resulting in thermal injury to tissues. It occurs when heat generation exceeds the body’s ability to dissipate (lose) heat. Heatstroke is very serious: it can lead to multiple organ damage/failure involving the liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, blood system and the central nervous system (brain) and can be fatal. Animals can die quickly from heat stress.
What are the predisposing factors?

  • A warm/hot, humid environment
  • Lack of adequate shade and water
  • Lack of adequate ventilation
  • Lack of acclimatisation to heat
  • Obesity
  • Brachycephalic conformation (short-nosed) dog breeds
  • Respiratory disease – laryngeal paralysis, collapsing trachea 
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Extremes in age
  • Central nervous system (brain) disease

What are the signs of heatstroke?
Signs may vary between individuals, but commonly include: 

  • Incessant panting
  • Weakness, fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Muscle tremors, muscle spasms
  • Signs of mental confusion, delirium
  • Staggering
  • Collapsing and lying down

This is general information provided by the RSPCA which must not be relied upon or regarded as a substitute for specific professional advice, including veterinary advice. We make no warranties that the information is accurate or suitable for a person’s unique circumstances and provide the website on the basis that all persons accessing the information responsibly assess the relevance and accuracy of its content.