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What to do if your dog has heatstroke



[This article lists the signs of heatstroke, what to do, and how you can protect dogs and other animals]


The RSPCA is calling on pet owners to take every precaution possible to keep their animals safe during the anticipated intense heatwave this weekend.

The animal welfare charity says it could be a matter of life or death if pet owners do not take measures to look after their pets – including familiarising themselves with the signs of heatstroke in animals.

The urgent advice comes as the Met Office has issued an amber extreme heat warning, and a Level 3 UK Health Security Agency heat health alert is in place for much of England and Wales.

The advice to protect pets includes: skipping walks and keeping them indoors out of the heat, as well as making frozen treats to encourage them to keep hydrated.



Esme Wheeler, dog welfare expert at the RSPCA, said: “The hot weather has gone from glorious to extreme, and we can’t stress enough how vital it is that pet owners take the situation seriously. 

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

“We’re still getting reports of dogs being left in cars, and seeing a lot of dogs being taken to busy outdoor events like festivals, shows and fetes, and to the beach.

“Don’t be that person who is dragging their panting dog along the pavement or plodding around a garden show.

“We can’t stress this enough – please leave them at home in the cool where they’ll be safe.”


The signs of heatstroke every dog owner needs to know:

  • Excessive panting
  • Unusual breathing noise
  • Lethargy or change in behaviour
  • Stumbling
  • Blue or grey tinge to gums or tongue
  • Contact your vet immediately if you spot any of these signs in your dog

What to do if your dog is showing signs of heatstroke:

  • Stop them from exercising
  • Move them into the shade or a cool space immediately
  • Offer water in small amounts
  • Lay them in cool but not very cold water and/or pour it over them
  • Place a soaked, cool towel over their side and replace if it becomes warm
  • Speak to your vet straight away for advice on what to do next


Every summer the RSPCA receives hundreds of reports of animals suffering from heat exposure – including dogs left in hot cars, or with heat burns on their paws from pavements, or over-exercised in the heat.

Esme added: “Knowing how to try and prevent heatstroke, and also how to spot the signs of heatstroke in pets could be a matter of life and death, so we’re urging anyone with a pet – whether it’s a dog or cat, a rabbit or guinea pig, and even chickens, horses and exotic animals – to put aside some time today to read up and make plans.”


Some essential things you can do to protect animals during extreme heat…




  • Never leave your dog in a vehicle. Dogs die in hot cars. Call 999 in an emergency if you see a dog in a hot car.
  • For the majority of the daytime hours, keep dogs indoors or wherever it is coolest.
  • Skipping walks during extreme weather shouldn’t cause your dog any problems. It’s much safer to skip a walk than put them at risk of heatstroke.
  • If you must exercise your dog, aim to keep to gentle, slow walks on the lead, and do this in the very early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler. Remember: if 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.
  • Keep fresh, cool water available at all times.
  • Have a go at making some frozen dog treats to keep your pooch cool.
  • Use cold treats from the fridge for added moisture or make an ice lolly for your dog from 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 spray a hose for your dog but try to avoid them over-exerting themselves and getting too warm.
  • Wrap an ice pack or frozen water bottle in a tea towel, or use damp towels for your pet to lie on.



Cats, small furries, pet chickens and fish

  • Place a cool damp towel down in case your cat finds this comfortable to rest on.
  • Don’t let your pet get sunburnt – use pet-safe sun cream on ears and other exposed areas if necessary.
  • Check small animals, poultry and other pets twice a day for flystrike.
  • Keep guinea pigs cool and hydrated by making them a fresh vegetable treat.
  • Ensure rabbits and guinea pigs have constant access to shade and fresh drinking water at all times, and remember that as the sun moves during the day so too does the shade. (Somewhere that was shaded in the morning could be in full sun by the afternoon.)
  • Freeze a semi-full plastic bottle of water and wrap it in a towel so your pets can lie against it.
  • Those with pet chickens can encourage them to stay in shaded areas by hanging up a homemade vegetable garland for them.
  • Keep fish tanks out of direct sunlight.



Pigs, horses and farm animals

  • Make sure pigs have plenty of wet mud to wallow in as well as shade.
  • Check water troughs are working properly and clean out any algae or debris.
  • For horses stabled during the day out of the heat, try making them a horse and pony boredom buster treat.
  • A non-toxic fly repellent spray and a fly mask can help keep horses protected from bugs.
  • Plan exercising and travelling horses at either end of the day when temperatures are lower.
  • Use pet-safe sunscreen on horses’ muzzles if necessary.
  • Know the signs of dehydration in horses so you can contact a vet if needed.




  • Leave a bowl of fresh drinking water in your garden for birds and other wildlife.
  • Top up water levels of ponds.
  • Keep an eye out for wildlife when using lawnmowers or strimmers.






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