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Preventing Heat Stress in Dogs

With what feels like a never ending succession of heatwaves every summer, Australian dogs face the real possibility of heat stress or heatstroke if they're left outside during these extreme hot days. It is essential to look at ways to keep your dog(s) safe, healthy and hydrated.

Heatstroke or heat stress is a state of hyperthermia (elevated core body temperature above the normal range). Heatstroke can occur in your dog when heat generation exceeds his body’s ability to lose heat. Heatstroke is a very serious condition: it can lead to multiple organ failure and animals can die quickly from heatstroke.

Which dogs are most susceptible to heat stress?

As a responsible dog owner, you should be aware of conditions that may cause or exacerbate heat stroke. Dogs that are elderly, obese, or have a history of heart disease or seizures are more likely to suffer from heat strokes and may have a lower tolerance for increased heat.
Dogs with shorter snouts (like Pugs, Pekingese, Bulldogs) also have a harder time panting out their body heat, so may be at higher risk.

Certain breeds simply do not tolerate heat as well as others. Some breeds that should not be exercised during the hottest part of the day include: English and French Bulldogs, Boxers, Saint Bernards, Pugs, and Shih Tzus.


As a matter of fact, no dog should be exercised when the temperatures exceed 30 degrees, yet sadly we see some poor pooches being dragged along by their well-meaning owners under the midday sun for their daily walk... On hot days try to walk your dog very early in the morning or very late in the afternoon when it is cool, and avoid the hottest part of the day.

Avoid hot sand, concrete, asphalt areas or any other areas where heat is reflected and there is no access to shade.

What are the signs of heat exhaustion in dogs?

Signs may vary between animals, but they commonly include:
  • Incessant panting (increases as heat stroke progresses)
  • Drooling, salivating
  • Agitation, restlessness
  • Very red or pale gums
  • Bright red tongue
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing distress
  • Vomiting, Diarrhoea (possibly with blood)
  • Signs of mental confusion, delirium
  • Dizziness, staggering
  • Lethargy, weakness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Collapsing and lying down
  • Little to no urine production
  • Coma

How can you avoid heat stress in your dog?

#1. Never leave your dog in a car unattended

The following safety message has been widely publicised by the RSPCA but sadly a small number of dog owners still don't do the right thing by their pets.

Do not leave your dog in a car in spring or summer under any circumstances. 

A dog should never be left in a vehicle in the sun, even if the temperature is mild. 

Even with the windows cracked, the temperature inside a car can increase exponentially in a matter of minutes, often with fatal results for unfortunate dogs.

#2. Groom your pooch appropriately for the season

Dogs with particularly long and thick fur may need to be shaved or trimmed during the hottest part of the summer. A professional groomer will likely know the best approach for providing a weather-appropriate style for your dog.
Labradoodle Haircut for Summer

#3. Leave your dog inside during very hot days

Most laundry doors can easily be retrofitted with a dog door still allowing full access to the backyard to ensure no accidents occur in the house.


If the weather is extremely hot, please allow your dog to stay inside your air conditioned house during the hottest parts of the day. If this is not possible, then ensure that he has access to a safe, shaded area outdoors. You can create extra shade areas in the backyard using shade cloths and shade umbrellas.

There are also some fully insulated dog kennels in the market which can make a huge difference in your dog's wellbeing on these extreme hot days.

#4. Provide your dog with shade and water

If your dog is outside on a very hot day, be sure that he has access to water and shade. 
Be careful if you're adding ice cubes to your dog's water bowl, as some animals will avoid drinking the water if they are concerned about the floating ice cubes. A good alternative is to freeze half a water bowl the night before and top the remainder up with cool water when putting out.

Some people even put ice on the ground for their dog to lie on if it is particularly hot outside, or you could provide him with a cooling mat.

Another helpful tip - courtesy of Bondi Vet's Dr. Chris Brown - is to provide your dogs with a way to do the sweating for them.
1. Grab a simple water spray bottle.
2. Fill it with water and place in the fridge.
3. Once the water is cool, give them a light spray on their belly, feet and underarms. These areas have good blood supply and will therefore cool your dog's body down even faster.

#5. Let your dog swim safely in hot weather

English Springer Spaniel enjoying a dip in his own bone-shaped pool - Photo: Dog Pools

If your dog has access to a river, stream, pond or a pool, he will likely swim in order to remain cool on a hot day. Allowing a dog access to water for swimming, or even hosing him down (gently) with water can help prevent heat stroke.

Be sure that you supervise your dog’s swimming and do not leave him near deep water (particularly swimming pools, which can be difficult for dogs to exit) if he is not a strong swimmer. Provide him with a life vest, a safety ramp or his own surf life saver...

#6. Allow your dog to rest if working in the heat
Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog panting in the heat
If you have a working dog, such as a herder, you should allow him time to rest during hot days. During rest times, be sure that he has access to plenty of shade and cool water. If possible, allow him to swim or wet him during a break.

For some ideas on products that may help your dog during these hot days ahead, read 16 Summer Essentials for Dogs (2023 edition). 

How should you treat a dog with heat stress?

The first step is to instigate Emergency First Aid at home to help normalise your dog's body temperature.
  • Apply or spray some cool water onto your dog's fur or skin. Try to also fan your pet to maximise heat loss quickly.
  • Wetting down the area around your pet can also help.
  • Don't use ice-cold water or ice as this may exacerbate the problem.
  • Then take your pet to the nearest vet immediately.

Heat stroke is a life threatening emergency for any pet and you should always see a vet.
Even if your pet looks like they may be recovering they should still be checked by a vet. 


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