Adelaide is starting to heat up! While spending more time out in the sun is a good thing for your pet’s health and wellbeing, as the days get longer and hotter, it’s also important to keep our pets safe from the harsh conditions.

As the temperatures rise, all pet owners should be aware of the increased risk of heat stroke (or heat stress) – one of the most common and most dangerous conditions for animals. Recognising the signs and being able to act quickly could save your pet’s life.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke occurs when the core body temperature is elevated above normal range. For cats, a normal core body temperature is generally between 37.7 – 39.1°C and for dogs between 38.3 to 39.2 °C. Contrary to popular belief, cats and dogs do sweat! But this is predominantly through small sweat glands around the paw pads, and is inefficient in extreme conditions. A dog and cat’s primary method for cooling down is panting with an open mouth, which allows moisture to evaporate from the tongue and lungs.


Preventing Heatstroke

The best way to prevent heat stroke in your pets is to provide an appropriate environment for them, and/or to take immediate action when symptoms are shown. The key things to remember are:

  • Provide a shaded, cool, and well ventilated area for your pets at all times.
  • Always make sure your pet has access to fresh drinking water.
  • Keep your pets indoors on extremely hot and humid days.
  • Monitor small animals closely as they are particularly susceptible to heatstroke.
  • Reduce exercise in extreme conditions and consider walking dogs in the early morning or late night (don’t walk them on hot concrete or sand as this can burn the sensitive pads on their feet).
  • Never leave animals in vehicles during extreme weather conditions.
  • Provide access to “cooling mats” if available.

Know the signs

While heat stroke can affect animals in many different ways, some of the most common signs that your pet is suffering include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive drooling
  • Increased body temperature
  • Dehydration
  • Restlessness
  • Redness in gums
  • Anxiety and mental confusion
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Reduced production of urine (or none at all)
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Weakness/lethargy

What you can do

Heat stroke is a very serious and possibly life threatening condition. If you recognize any of the signs, it is important to take action immediately.

  • Assist your pet in cooling their core temperature – place them in a cool, shallow bath; cover them in water from the hose; or drape a cool, damp towel over them. Once your pet is wet, maintain airflow with a fan. Be careful that you’re not dropping the temperature too suddenly, however, as this can also be detrimental to their health.
  • Always make sure your pet has access to fresh water
  • CONTACT YOUR VET IMMEDIATELY. Veterinary care is often required to treat cases of heatstroke. Vets can help to administer fluids and medication as required, provide supplemental oxygen, maintain blood pressure, support organ functions, and help with overall recovery. If you’re unsure about whether you think your pet may be suffering or not, vets are also an invaluable source of information and advice.