Do you know how quickly the temperature of your car can rise by 30℃? 20 minutes according to the “Department of Earth & Climate Sciences, San Francisco State University”.

20 minutes is enough to kill your dog or any other pet when left in the car (Mann, 2018)! Earlier in many cases! Even “a minute” in the car can have detrimental consequences for your pet’s health.

But be aware, heat exhaustion can also occur in the house, conservatory, on a walk, when playing ball, etc.

Brachycephalic dogs (British Bulldog, French bulldog, Pug, etc.), long-haired pets, old pets or obese pets are more likely to develop heatstroke.

What happens to my pet?

Heatstroke or heat exhaustion in pets can be fatal.

When the temperature of your pet reaches 41C, he/she is at risk of developing heat stroke.

You may see some of the following symptoms:

  • excessive panting
  • lack of responsiveness to normal commands
  • wandering off instead of coming to you
  • lying down, lethargy
  • glazed eyes
  • drooling
  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • red or blue gums and tongue
  • dizziness or lack of coordination
  • loss of consciousness
  • convulsions
  • death!

What can I do?

  • Move your pet to a cool area.
  • Check your pet’s temperature (> 39.5℃ is abnormally high, > 41℃ is life-threatening).
  • Cool your pet’s body down by
    • Putting your pet into cool water such as a lake or baby pool if he/she is conscious and fit enough for this. Otherwise, gently pour cool water at room temperature over the body or use cool, wet towels to cool the area between the back legs, armpits, neck, ear pinnae and paws. Do not use ice or very cold water on your pet’s skin as it will actually cause the blood vessels to constrict so that less cool blood will get to the core – it is just not as effective as using cool water at room temperature!
    • Offer cold water if your pet is conscious and willing to drink.
    • Don’t give your pet ice cubes as this will drop the temperature too quickly resulting in shock.
  • Call the vet and let them know that you are on your way. This is a true emergency!

How will the vet treat my pet?

We will continue the cool-down procedure as soon as you arrive. After thoroughly assessing your pet’s condition, we may perform tests such as blood and urine tests, ECG, etc. to help us guide the treatment. Fluid therapy to cool the body internally and to rehydrate is the first line of treatment. Other treatment to address gastrointestinal signs, heart arrhythmias, seizures, etc. will be given as required. Sadly, some patients succumb.

What can I do to prevent heatstroke?

  • Never leave your pet in the car even for a minute. Parking in the shade and leaving the window open will not prevent heatstroke.
  • Never leave your pet in a hot room such as the conservatory.
  • Make sure your pet has access to shade and water at all times.
  • Use a fan.
  • Adjust your exercise regime according to the weather and your dog’s abilities. For example, a British Bulldog will not be able to cope with the heat as good as a Border Collie and you may consider not walking him/her when it is hot. Put a stop to the playing or running – remember, our enthusiastic dogs go for it until they drop!
  • Consider going for a reasonable walk early in the morning or later in the evening when it is cooler.
  • Carry water with you when you go for a walk or are playing with your pet.
  • Give your dog access to water to cool down – a children’s paddling pool will do!
  • Offer plenty of fresh water to drink throughout the day. Make sure that your pet cannot spill it, use multiple water bowls if necessary and place them in the shade. You can also add a little ice to the water on very hot days to keep it cooler for longer.
  • Consider using items such as cooling bandanas, vests, mats. There are plenty of products on the market.

Take home message: Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition and sadly every year pets die of it.  Please take precautions to avoid this happening to your pets!  Never leave your pet in the car or a hot room. If it happens, then cool your pet down immediately and rush to the vet. Call us first so that we can get prepared for the arrival of your family member.


For further information, check out this YouTube video:


Mann, T. (2018) “This is what happens when a dog is left in a hot car”, Available from: (accessed 14/04/2020).