Each summer, as Aussie pet owners pack their bags and head off on their family holidays, we open our doors to thousands of pets. And while the temperatures continue to rise, it's our job to make sure your cats and dogs stay cool and safe in the heat.

Something we're all aware of - and indeed trained to both recognise and respond should we ever have to - is heat stroke.

Here, we take a look at what heat stroke is, which pets are most at risk, and what you can do to keep your dog or cat safe this summer. 

What is heat stroke?

While heat stroke is more common in the warmer months of the year, it can happen at any time, and refers to a significant increase in body temperature in your pet. For dogs, this means an elevated body temperature of up to between 40.5 degrees C and 43 degrees C, and, in cats, a temperature of over 40 degrees C will require medical evaluation.

Heat stroke is also known as heat stress or by it's technical name, hyperthermia. The reason dogs and cats are susceptible to heat stress is because they do not respond to increases in temperature in the same way we do - for example by sweating . Most animals rely on panting and external cooling in order to keep their body temperature down and, as owners, we therefore have to be mindful of providing them with a shady, well ventilated environment with plenty of fresh drinking water.

Heat stroke is primarily caused by prolonged exposure to a warm, hot or humid environment, without adequate ventilation - animals left in a car, for example, will quickly suffer heat stroke - and without access to shade or drinking water. 

Unfortuinately, because of the impact heat stroke can have on a dog or cat's internal organs, it can be fatal. 

The symptoms of heat stroke

There are a couple of symptoms you can look out for that may indicate heat stress. In cats, these are: 

  • Restless behaviour as they seek out a cooler spot
  • Panting, drooling, excessive grooming and sweaty paws
  • Elevated rectal temperature. 
  • Rapid pulse, vominting, lethargy, stumbling and staggering
  • Red tongue and mouth

In dogs, you need to look out for: 

  • Dark red tongue and gums
  • Sticky or dry tongue
  • Frothing at mouth
  • Staggered walk
  • Unwilling to get up
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Little to no urine production

Which pets are most at risk?

Some pets are more at risk of heat stress than others. Elderly pets, for example, or those who are on medication, are more at risk of heat stroke, as are those who have suffered heat stroke in the past, or who have a heart condition. Pets that are overweight are more at risk, as are certain breeds - dogs with short snouts such as Pugs and Bulldogs, and cats with shortened faces such as the Persian. Finally, pets with very thick coats are more at risk unless they have a hair cut in time for summer! 

How to prevent heat stroke

There are plenty of things you can do to help prevent heat stroke in your pet. The first is being aware that heat stroke can affect your dog or cat, and to understand the severity. If you recognise the symptoms, make sure you seek medical help for your pet as soon as possible! Here are some other easy ways to minimise the risk to your pet this summer. 

  1. Provide your pet with a cool, well ventilated space to inhabit. Ventilation is crucial as pets rely on panting to cool their body temperature and this evaporative cooling relies on good air flow. 
  2. If your pet is outdoors, ensure there is sufficient shade for them to shelter under
  3. Always supply plenty of fresh, clean water - do not use icy-cold water or ice
  4. Avoid exercise during periods of hot weather and during the peak hours of sun shine. 
  5. Minimise your pet's access to reflective surfaces such as concerte, sand and asphalt. 
  6. Never leave your pet in a car. 
  7. Be aware of the symptoms of heat stroke and take action promptly if you suspect heat stroke.  

What to do if you suspect heat stroke

As well seeking immediate medical help, there are a few steps you can take to help your pet if you suspect heat stroke: 

  • Remove your dog or cat from the hot environment immediately and apply tepid or cool water to their fur. 
  • To maximise their cooling, seek out a fan or use soemthing stiff to fan their body. 

At Hanrob Pet Hotels, all staff are trained on pet first aid and are aware of the symptoms of heat stroke. Our staff also put into practise the necessary procedures during extreme weather conditions, to ensure the pets in our care are safe during the summer months.