Here’s how to tell if your dog or cat has heat stroke and what you can do to help

Here's how to tell if your dog or cat has heat stroke and what you can do to help

Advice has been issued for dogs, cats, horses, farm animals and native wildlife (Image: Getty Images)

Temperatures will be heading towards 40C in parts of the UK over the next week so keeping our cats and dogs cool is crucial.

However, more than one in three people still don’t know the symptoms of heat stroke in their dog or what to do if they suffer.

Caring for pets, as well as livestock and native wildlife, is important as the heat intensifies.

The RSPCA says it could be a “matter of life and death” for pets.

Esme Wheeler, Dog Welfare Expert at the RSPCA, said: “The hot weather has gone from glorious to extreme and we cannot stress enough the importance of pet owners taking the situation seriously.

“That means limiting or skipping walks, only taking essential car trips, keeping water available at all times, and preparing damp, cold towels and mats and frozen treats.

“We are still getting reports of dogs being left in cars and seeing many dogs being taken to busy outdoor events such as festivals, shows and fetes and the beach.

“Don’t be the person who drags your panting dog down the sidewalk or trudges through a garden show.

The Signs of Heat Stroke Every Dog Owner MUST Know:

● Excessive panting

● Unusual breath sounds

● Lethargy or change in behavior

● tripping

● Blue or gray tinge of the gums or tongue

Contact your vet immediately if you spot any of these signs in your dog

“We cannot stress this enough – please leave them at home in the cool where they are safe.”

If you notice the above signs of heat stroke in your dog, there are several steps you can take.

Keep the animal from moving when it’s out and place it in a shaded or cool area, the RSPCA has recommended.

Offer small amounts of liquid and, if available, place a soaked, cool towel over your head.

The towel should be replaced once it has warmed up.

Once these steps have been taken, dog owners should immediately call a veterinarian for further advice.

There are also a variety of tips on how to prevent heat stroke in the first place, which you can read below.


Mandatory Credit: Photo by REX/Shutterstock (13026560e) As the UK finds itself in a Mediterranean heatwave, we need to remember to drink plenty of water, stay cool and keep our pets cool - and remember to water the gardens too , if the dog allows you to. Willow keeps trying to drink from the hose while Alex tries to water the garden in Kent. Summer heatwave, Kent, UK - 11th July 2022

Dogs should be kept in cool areas during the day when temperatures are at their highest (Image: REX/Shutterstock)
  • Never leave your dog in a vehicle. Dogs die in hot cars. In an emergency, call 999 if you see a dog in a hot car.
  • Keep dogs indoors or where it is coolest most of the day.
  • Skipping walks in extreme weather shouldn’t cause any problems for your dog. It’s much safer to skip a walk than to expose them to heat stroke.
  • If you must exercise your dog, try gentle, slow walks off-leash, and do this early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures are cooler. Remember: When in doubt, don’t go out.
  • Take extra precautions for older dogs, those with thicker coats or flat faces, and those with existing health conditions.
  • Always have fresh, cool water available.
  • Try making some frozen dog treats to keep your dog cool.
  • Use cold treats from the fridge for extra moisture, or make a popsicle for your dog with pet-friendly ingredients.
  • Freeze your dog’s water bowl or kong, or add ice cubes to your pet’s bowl.
  • Fill a paddling pool or hose down your dog, but try to avoid overexerting and overheating.
  • Wrap an ice pack or frozen water bottle in a dishcloth or use damp towels for your pet to lie on.

Cats, small furries, fish and pet chickens

Here's how to tell if your dog or cat has heat stroke and what you can do to help

Cats can get sunburned – pet sunscreen is available to protect exposed areas (Picture: Getty)
  • Place a cool, damp towel on the floor if your cat finds it comfortable to rest on.
  • Don’t let your pet get sunburned – use pet-safe sunscreen on ears and other exposed areas if necessary.
  • Check small animals, poultry and other pets twice a day for fly infestations.
  • Keep guinea pigs cool and hydrated by making them a treat of fresh vegetables.
  • Make sure rabbits and guinea pigs have access to shade and fresh drinking water at all times, and remember that as the sun moves throughout the day, so does the shade. A place that was shady in the morning could be in full sun in the afternoon.
  • Freeze a half-full plastic water bottle and wrap it in a towel for your pets to lie against.
  • Those with pet chickens can encourage them to stay in shady areas by hanging a homemade chicken vegetable garland.
  • Keep aquariums out of direct sunlight.

horses and livestock

PORTLAND, ENGLAND - JULY 10: Riders cool off in the harbor on July 10, 2022 in Portland, England. The UK is set to experience a heatwave this week as temperatures are expected to hit 30C in some parts. A level 2 heat alert has been issued for the south and east of England. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)

Riders freshen up in Portland Harbour, England earlier this week (Image: Getty Images)
  • Check that the water troughs are working properly and remove any algae or debris.
  • For horses that are stabled out of the heat during the day, try making them our anti-dandruff treat for horses and ponies.
  • A non-toxic fly repellent spray and fly mask can help protect horses from bugs.
  • Plan on training and traveling horses at both ends of the day when temperatures are lower.
  • Use a pet-safe sunscreen on horses’ muzzles if needed.
  • Know the signs of dehydration in horses so you can contact a veterinarian if necessary.
  • Make sure domestic pigs have plenty of wet mud to wallow in and shade.


small young hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) in the autumn forest looking for food in the undergrowth, selected focus, narrow depth of field

Native wild animals such as small hedgehogs should also be protected (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
  • Leave a bowl of fresh drinking water in your yard for birds and other wildlife.
  • Fill up the water level of ponds.
  • Watch out for wildlife when using lawn mowers or trimmers.

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Justin Scacco

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