Heat Stress

The Australian summer is renowned for being HOT! This heat can have a significant impact on our pets. Dogs and sometimes cats are susceptible to heat stress. If you are feeling hot, the chances are your pet is too. So lets dive into some information and ways you can keep your pets cool and safe this summer.

Heat stress in dogs can happen rapidly

Unfortunately our furry friends can’t sweat it out to cool down. Instead they reduce heat by panting however that only helps so much. Heat stress can be dangerous for all animals regardless of their health, shape or size. 

What causes Heat Stress?

When animals are exposed to hot and humid environments. Events such as animals locked in cars or exercising on hot days tend to be the most common. Temperatures rise rapidly inside a car, even if the windows are down…It is never safe to leave your pet in the car. 

What are the signs of Heat Stress?

  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive drooling with thick stringy saliva
  • Red/purple gums and tongue
  • Vomiting/diarrhoea
  • Collapsing/staggering
  • Racing heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Increased body temperature.

If your dog is suffering from heat stress, they will initially show an increase in panting. This comes with vocalisation barking, whining) a sign or expression that they are distressed. As heat stress progresses, the panting will become excessive and laboured. This can lead to difficulty breathing. Some dogs may drool excessively and even vomit. If the suffering continues, dogs will experience circulatory collapse and their gums will appear blue. They may convulse or become unconscious.

Cats show very similar signs, although it can be harder to identify heat stress in felines.

Heat stress can affect your pet fast. It is always a good idea to ensure your pet is protected from the weather. If your pet is showing any of these symptoms or you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stress you should contact your vet immediately.

Snowy Vets provides 24/7 emergency assistance, so we can help you and your pet when you need it most.

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What you can do to help

Cooling your pet to their regular temperature is vital. You should immediately remove your pet from the hot environment. Placing your pet in towels dampened by cool water will help cool your pet. Using a fan may also assist. This is the best first aid you can do for your pet.

From here you should contact your vet immediately and transport your pet wrapped in dampened towels as soon as possible.

Prevention is the best practice.

Tips to keep your pet cool in summer

  • Exercise during the cooler parts of the day (early morning; late night) and considering not exercising your pet if conditions don’t become favourable. When thinking about exercising your pet, try to do so on grassed surfaces. If you cannot keep your hand on the surface for 10 seconds, your pet’s foot cannot handle the heat of the surface.
  • Ensuring your pet has shade and a cool surface (indoor tiles, garage cement floor) to lay on. 
  • Access to fresh, clean water at all times.
  • Provide a paddling pool.
  • Keeping your pet inside on hot days even in a shaded area with a fan.
  • Providing ice blocks for your pet – frozen water with some treats in it
  • DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE LEAVE YOUR DOG IN THE CAR
  • Keep a particularly close eye on your brachycephalic (squished face) dogs eg pug, bulldogs etc As they are at a higher risk. 

Recognising the signs of heat stress and acting fast could save you pets life! Excessive panting, restlessness, vomiting and red gums are common signs.

If you have any concerns that your dog may be showing signs of heat stress, immediate veterinary attention is required. Be sure to look after your fur family during the summer period. Please call us if you have any concerns or questions regarding the hot weather and your pets.


Here are some thought provoking facts:

  • Your dogs normal body temperature is around 38.5C, an increase of 2degrees is all it takes for heat stroke to kick in.
  • It can take 60 days for your dog to acclimatise to the heat.
  • At 43C your dog’s vital organs start to fail.
  • 50% is the average survival rate of dogs diagnosed with heat stroke.

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