Heat Stress in pets: signs and symptoms to recognise in your pet

Summer arrives in the Highlands a little later than other parts of NSW and although we all enjoy the cooler nights, the summer can still be frightfully hot during the day. Summer can be a particularly distressing time for our pets, but a little planning will ensure that they remain healthy and comfortable during these warmer months.

No matter what pet you have, if it lives outside, ensure it always has access to Have a good supply of water available for your pet at all timescool, shady areas and plenty of water. This can be as simple as large shady trees or wide verandas. If your pet cannot get access to these areas, consider putting up a shade sail or market umbrella.  If your pet is housed in a cage or hutch such as rabbits, guinea pigs or birds, position the cage so it does not receive direct sunlight. Metal rabbit and guinea pig hutches can be particularly deadly in hot weather as they can become very warm if left  out in the sun for even an hour or two, you may wish to replace them with an all weather  timber hutch.  Consider placing some shade cloth over the cage to help shade your pet and reduce the heat of the sun. Large water bottles are available for hutches that will clip on the side of the hutch.

This prevents the rabbit or guinea pig from knocking over a water dishHow to keep rabbits cool in heat inside the hutch. Often a freezer brick wrapped in a tea towel can provide a cool respite for small animals. You will see them laying beside these when necessary. Frozen carrots are a useful source of food for rabbits and guinea pigs during hot weather!


An adequate supply of cool, clean drinking water is the most important thing that you can provide your pet with in summer. Remember that during summer your pets will drink more water than in winter and if your dog is left alone during the day it is best to leave them with more than one container of water in case the container is knocked over. A good water dish should hold at least 2 liters of water and can be made of plastic or stoneware as stainless dishes can overheat the water on a hot day.  There are even some water dishes that connect to your hose to provide a continuous supply of drinking water. For more information about hydration in pets read our blog '8 Signs of Dehydration in Dogs & Cats'.

We all know not to leave our pets in a car. Even parked in the shade temperatures within cars can become extreme within a short time.  We can’t predict everything that will happen to us when we are out and if your quick dash into the shops becomes 5 or 10 minutes, this could be enough to cause heatstroke to your pet.  Don’t leave your pet locked in the car, even with the window down, heat exhaustion can be life threatening!


Dogs can’t sweat instead, they will pant to cool down. Many will seek a shady tree or cool tiled area to take a break from the summer heat, however, there are some dogs that will chase and play in the sun that may need some encouragement to take it easy. All dogs are at risk of heatstroke, however, working dogs and senior dogs are often at a higher risk and signs and symptoms of heat stress can be subtle initially.

Common signs that a pet may be suffering from heat stress includes:

  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • excessive panting
  • dry mouth - check gums for dryness & lack of saliva
  • bright red tongue
  • muscle tremors
  • seizures, collapse
  • lack of urine
  • listlessness and disorientation and in severe cases loss of consciousnesses
  • vomiting or diarrhea

It is essential to  move the dog somewhere cool and shaded. Cool the animal down if it is suffering from heat stress with cool water. Wet a towel and drape this over the pet, encourage it drink water. If you suspect that your pet is suffering from heatstroke, contact your vet immediately.

Cool Pet Gel Mats, provide relief from heat for dogs.


Too hot to trot?

    By taking a few sensible precautions, you and your pet can enjoy the summer Too hot to walk your dog? Check out this chart before setting off.season. Take into account the temperature of the day before setting off on your daily walk with your dog. For energetic dogs, why not take them for a swim to burn off excess energy. If it is over 28-30 degrees, consider walking the dog later in the afternoon or early in the morning.  Remember, footpaths and asphalt will hold heat & can be up to double the air temperature!  If you take a drink on your walk for yourself,  don’t forget to take one for the dog with a portable water dish.


    Mix electrolytes into their water

    ChEnsure your pet has electrolytes in their drinking water!eck to see how often your dog drinks & urinates. A great tip to ensure your pet gets a little more of the wet stuff, give them some tinned food. You can also mix special electrolytes in with their water to ensure good replenishment of key minerals such as sodium, chloride, and potassium. Electrolytes are suitable for birds and chooks, small animals, dogs and cats.

    Bring them indoors

    If you can, bring them inside to a cool room in your house. A laundry is often tiled and cool, use a fan or air conditioning if you need to. There are now fold up water dishes and portable drink bottles for dogs that can fit in your pocket or connect to the lead. Consider a pop-up pool for your dog! These are great & can be folded up when not in use.


    Keep on top of grooming

    If you have a long haired pet, make sure you brush their coat daily. This will remove excess dead coat!  Visit the groomer and have them clipped so that they will be comfortable during summer and look great too! 


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