Health & Wellness

How to keep pets cool and avoid heatstroke

Bianca Amponsah
Dog and cat running in grass in sun

Heat stroke is a type of hyperthermia, which refers to an extremely high body temperature that can be life-threatening.  

Both dogs and cats can suffer from heatstroke, although cats typically suffer from heat exhaustion first before getting heatstroke. 

Because animals are unable to cool down by sweating like humans do, they are less able to regulate their body temperature. 

This is why heat stroke in pets is commonly observed when they are trapped in a non-ventilated area like a car. Or when they overexert themselves on a hot, sunny day.  

But with proper care and attention, you can prevent heat stroke in pets and enjoy the hot summer days safely. 


What is the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke? 


Heat stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the body temperature rises to dangerously high levels. 


Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses an excessive amount of water and salt, typically from sweating.  


Both are caused by your body’s inability to cool itself. 


Immediate medical attention is necessary for heat stroke, which is more serious than heat exhaustion and can lead to complications. 


Which pets are more likely to suffer from heat stroke? 


Breeds with flat faces are at a higher risk, as are obese animals and senior pets. 

those trapped in cars, as they can overheat within 20 minutes. 


All dogs can be at risk of heat stroke if exposed to hot temperatures, poor ventilation, and inadequate drinking water.  

However, certain dogs are more vulnerable, such as those with flat faces/short snouts, older or younger dogs, animals with underlying health conditions, those on certain medications, obese or overweight animals, and animals with thick coats.  


The most common causes of heat stroke are exercise in the hot sun, being left in a hot car or room, and not having access to fresh water. 

On a sunny day, cars can reach over 55 degrees centigrade within half an hour, and dogs left in hot cars make up most heat stroke cases seen at the vets.  


Symptoms of heat stroke in dogs include 

  • Heavy panting 
  • Agitation,  
  • Excessive thirst 
  • Salivating/drooling 
  • Fast heartbeat 
  • Dark-coloured mucous membranes, 
  • Glazed eyes 
  • Elevated body temperature 
  • Weakness 
  • Collapse 
  • Confusion, seizures, and unconsciousness.  


Proper care during the hot months can help to prevent heat stroke, heat exhaustion, dehydration, and other health issues, in your pet.  


Top tips to keep your pet cool 


Check out these top tips, approved by our in-house vet team, to help keep your pets cool in hot weather.  


1. Keep your pets hydrated: Make sure your pet has access to plenty of fresh and clean water throughout the day. 


2. Limit outdoor activities: It is important to avoid taking your pet out during the hottest part of the day to prevent heat stroke.  

Instead, it is recommended to walk your pet during cooler temperatures such as early morning or evening.  

If the temperature is over 28 degrees Celsius, it is safer to skip the walk altogether and keep your furry friend entertained with indoor activities.  

Temperatures over 24 degrees Celsius can be dangerous for young, old, large, and brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds such as bulldogs, pugs, Persians, and exotic shorthair cats. 

Therefore, it is essential to pay attention to the temperature and take necessary precautions to ensure the safety of your pets. 


3. If your pet is outside, make sure they have access to a shaded area. You can also use a pet-friendly sunscreen to protect them from the sun. 


4. Use cooling products: There are various cooling products available for pets, such as cooling vests, mats, and bandanas, which can help keep them cool.  


You can also try using a spray bottle of cold water to mist your pet occasionally. But remember to take things slowly and gently and test if your actually pet likes it first! 


Try the first few squirts away from your pet to begin with to check their reaction, as some cats and dogs can find the sound of the pump or the sensation of the spray scary. 


5. Never leave your pet in a parked car: Even with the windows open, a parked car can quickly become a hot and dangerous environment for your pet.  



Frozen treats to help your pet beat the heat!


Here are some frozen treats that cats and dogs can eat in summer: 


 1. Ice cubes: You can give cats and dogs some ice cubes to lick or chew on to cool down.  


You can also add a few ice cubes to their water bowl to keep the water nice and chilled. 


The ice cubes need to be an appropriate size for your pet. For example, you should never give a small dog a large ice cube as this can pose a choking risk.  


In any case, we recommend giving your pet smaller cubes, no matter their body size, just to be extra safe. This is a nice healthy frozen treat that helps keep them hydrated and cool. 


If your pet is suffering from heatstroke, then you should never give them ice.  


Instead, cool them with water with cold, damp towels or gently pour water on the fur and contact your vet immediately. Heatstroke needs urgent veterinary treatment.  


2. Frozen fruits and vegetables: You can freeze some fruits and vegetables like watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, or carrots.

These treats are healthy and refreshing for your pets. Make sure they’re not sharp so they’re safe for your buddy! 


3. Frozen yoghurt: You can make some frozen yoghurt by blending plain, non-fat, unsweetened yoghurt with some fruits and freezing the mixture in an ice cube tray.  


Consult with your vet first and only ever try a small amount to begin with, as cats and dogs are naturally lactose intolerant! 


This means they may have trouble digesting the yoghurt, which can cause diarrhoea! Nobody wants this so always approach with caution when giving your pet new human foods to try. 


And make sure it doesn't contain any dangerous ingredients, like added sweeteners such as xylitol/birch sugar. 


There are also dog-friendly frozen yoghurt treats available online, such as Frozzys. You can check them out here


4. Peanut butter and banana ice cream: You can blend some frozen bananas, peanut butter, and yoghurt to make a creamy and delicious ice cream treat.  


5. Frozen pet-friendly gravy or chicken and beef broth. You can freeze some low-sodium/salt chicken or beef broth in an ice cube tray and give it to your pet as a refreshing treat.

Blended wet food ice cubes also work well and are very tasty which encourages licking on hot days. 


Remember to give these frozen treats in moderation and always supervise your pets while they are eating them.  


If your dog or cat has heat stroke, it can be fatal if not treated promptly. If your pet is showing the signs, call your vet immediately for advice. 


Keep your dog's body cool and use a shower or hosepipe to gently spray them with cool water. Wet their belly, and inside their legs and pour cool water onto their paws.  

Move them to a shaded area or cool room and encourage them to drink small amounts of cool water if they are still conscious.  

When travelling to the vet, make sure the car is as cool as possible with the air conditioning on or windows open. 


By following these tips, you can avoid any heat-related emergencies and keep your pet cool, calm and comfortable in the summer. 

Ask a Registered Vet Nurse!

Got a concern about your pet, need help picking the right product or just looking for expert advice to be the best pet parent ever? Our qualified vet nurses are here to use their decades of experience to support you for free!

Fiona Eldridge
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Fiona Eldridge
Hi! I'm Fiona, Buddycare's lead Veterinary Nurse and I'm here to answer all of your pet related questions dog and cat emoji
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