With temperatures soaring once again across much of the UK, we thought it a good idea to pass on some of our supporters’ top tips for keeping your animals cool in hot weather. Animals may get uncomfortable and stressed and this might quickly lead to heatstroke. It’s important to avoid this at all costs, especially with animals that can’t sweat, can’t regulate their temperature very well, obese animals, animals with underlying conditions, giant breeds, thick furred breeds, and brachiocephalic dog and cat breeds.


Heatstroke is a very serious and often fatal disease that occurs when an animal’s cooling mechanisms can’t keep up and their body temperature elevates beyond 105-106 degrees. Cells and proteins in the body are sensitive to excess heat. When they are damaged, it can lead to conditions such as kidney failure, brain damage, heart arrhythmias, liver failure, muscle damage, systemic inflammation and excessive blood clotting.


New research about dogs

Researchers in dog welfare from Nottingham Trent University and the Royal Veterinary College analysed the anonymised clinical records of more than 900,000 UK dogs. They found that 1,222 had received veterinary care for heatstroke at some point during their lives, with almost 400 affected in a single year. As highlighted in this blog, heatstroke is a potentially fatal condition inflicted on dogs (and other animals) and it is expected to become even more common as global temperatures rise. In this study, 14.2% of affected dogs died as a result of their heatstroke event.

The most common cause of potentially-fatal heatstroke in dogs is being exercised by their owners. Exercise—which could include dogs walking, playing or running with their owners—was responsible for three quarters (74%) of heat stroke cases. 14.2% of affected dogs died as a result of their heatstroke event.

The research aimed to highlight the risk factors and triggers for heatstroke to give owners a better understanding of the dangers and enable them take action to avoid them.

Hall, E.J.; Carter, A.J.; O’Neill, D.G. Dogs Don’t Die Just in Hot Cars—Exertional Heat-Related Illness (Heatstroke) Is a Greater Threat to UK Dogs. Animals 202010, 1324. See here for a quick read.

Signs of heatstroke


  • Panting excessively
  • Agitated
  • Dark or bright red tongue or gums
  • Body temperature of 104 to 110 (normal is 101.5)
  • Rapid heartbeat or pulse
  • Vomiting
  • Markedly thirsty
  • Bloody diarrhoea
  • Excessive drooling
  • Glazed eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Staggering around


Note that cats differ from dogs in that cats which are open mouth breathing or panting are showing signs of serious stress and need immediate veterinary care. Panting is never a sign of the cat just trying to cool down.

Rabbits, guinea pigs and small pets

  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Panting
  • Reddening of the ears
  • Salivating
  • Sleepy or lethargic
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Falling unconscious


Heat exhaustion can rapidly lead to heatstroke and the signs can include the following:

  • Rapidly breathing, sweaty horse
  • A dull expression or behaviour
  • Mild colic
  • Coats that are dripping with sweat
  • Refusal to work
  • Rapid breathing (over 60 beats per minute)
  • Some horses exhibit “thumping”—a spasmodic jerking of the diaphragm or flanks
  • The horse may move very stiffly and abnormally, similar to a horse that is tying up
  • Hyperthermia (a temperature of over 106 degrees)
  • A staggering, weaving gait
  • Horses may fall, rear, and seem unaware of their surroundings
  • Foals and old horses may find it harder to regulate their temperature so be extra careful with them

What to do ~ contact the vet and cool down your animal

You need to contact a vet urgently if you see these sorts of signs as the animal may well need hospitalisation and intensive care to stabilise temperatures and deal with any adverse effects. Cool towels can be put over your pet on the way to the vets to start the cooling down process including on their neck, under armpits and between the legs. Wetting the ear flaps and paw pads may be effective as well. You can also spray the animal with cool water, use fans or cooling pads, and use rubbing alcohol on the footpads. You should begin cooling procedures asap. Please don’t submerge your pet in cold water as this can cause shock.

Please note however:

Be very careful using wet towels to cool a dog – they heat up very quickly and then trap warmth next to the dog having the opposite effect to that intended.

Sponging the underside of the animal especially ventral abdomen, between hind legs and under genitals with cold water is very helpful, as are small garden sprayers.

The main aim is is to lower the body temperature quickly enough to prevent further damage being done to the animal’s vital organs, but not so quickly as to cause shock. Dogs, for example, that recover are usually those whose temperatures are returned to normal as early as possible. 

For horses, start with a cold, cold, shower. Studies conducted at the Atlanta Olympics proved that there is no harm, only help, in applying cold water to an overheated horse and this has been commonplace in competitions since.  Start with the chest, jugular part of the neck and lower legs to maximise the cooling effect and then extend to everywhere. Offer tepid water.

Giving oral Arnica 200c alongside the cooling methods suggested here will help any animal you suspect may be heat-stressed or suffering heatstroke.

Please contact your vet if you are in any doubt ~ it’s better to be over-cautious than leave it too late in what can become a rapidly escalating situation. Early recognition and treatment of heatstroke can mean the difference between life and death.

Top tips for keeping your animals cool in the heat

Clearly the best thing to do is avoid distress and heatstroke in the first place. There are plenty of articles that highlight how to spot the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, and which give advice on how to avoid problems and what to do if you see the signs. For example, the PDSA has a comprehensive series of articles for small animals here. Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, small animals, budgies, chickens and fish are covered. The Blue Cross also has a series of great articles for different animals including horses here.

For all animals, ensure access to plenty of fresh water at all times. Ensure adequate shade throughout the day (don’t forget to account for the sun’s movements) and constantly monitor for signs of distress.

You may need to apply sunscreen to animals with light fur or hairless / featherless areas.

We also asked our supporters for their tips ~ see below. If you have any to add, please let us know.

Don’t forget – please seek veterinary advice if you are in any doubt


Great advice is to be found from the PDSA , from the Dogs Trust and from Holistic Vet Vicky.

One key thing to remember is to minimise or completely stop exercise (walking, running, playing) with your dogs (as highlighted in the research above) and if you do, only exercise in the coolest parts of the day. If you do decide to exercise your dog, check and if necessary avoid asphalt as this can get unbearably hot. Blistered and burned paws may result if it is too hot. If you can’t hold the back of your hand on a surface for more than five seconds, you should not be walking your dog on it. Tarmac/asphalt and artificial grass surfaces are terrible for retaining heat – real grass is much cooler. There’s a great Blue Cross article here. And of course:



Kai the Firedog’s top tips

We asked Mat Dixon, Kai’s owner, for the regime he used with Kai. They got this down to a fine art due to the nature of Kai’s job as one of only 15 firedogs in the UK, so his list is the gold standard. Kai:

Took his (shortened) walks early AM & late PM to avoid the heat
• Ate his Paleo Ridge Raw Dog Food not fully defrosted so it is nice and cold
• Spent his days staying chilled in the shade, preferably with his paddling pool (avoid over exertive water play…….this can cause all sorts of issues!!)
• Snacked on home-made ice pops (weak frozen food ‘soup’ made with water and then frozen into blocks, from ice cube up to 1 litre sizes)
• Took his walks in shady woods etc with natural floors (avoiding tarmac at all costs!! It gets so hot!!)
• Did low key training, mostly mental stimulation rather than anything too physical!!

• If operationally working……searches were short, water breaks were frequent, boots were soaked in water to help keep his feet cool and aid evaporation, and while searching he wore his cooling jacket!!
• After searching he cooled off with a shower, wash down, cooling jacket and cooling bed ~ before retiring to his air conditioned kennel in the truck!!
• He avoided unnecessary journeys: much as he loved a good day trip, he’s happier (well, better off) being left at home in the cool (ish)
• Whilst in the vehicle the air conditioning was on to keep it cool (one point to mention here…..my vehicle had run lock, which means I could leave the engine running and the air conditioning on but remove the keys!!)
• Our vehicle had temperature monitoring, if it started to get too warm (or cold!!) I got a text update to warn me!!
• Whilst driving, Kai was in his kennel in the back of the truck, this helped to keep him settled and avoided him getting overstimulated by things going on outside the vehicle!! A dog jumping around to look out of all the windows is not going to be helping themselves to stay cool!! 
• Oh, and he NEVER!! drove (well, got driven I suppose!! 😋) with his head out of the window!! Funny as this looks, and as cooling and fun as it must be…….if you’ve ever had a pebble hit your windscreen, you’ll understand the injuries your dog could get from debris hitting them instead!! (I’m aware of one partially sighted dog who’s owners are living with the guilt that they are to blame!! 😔)
• We monitored him, kept an eye on him, and looked out for signs that he might be struggling!! This link is a good one to familiarise yourself with.

Be sensible, be careful, be heatstroke aware!!

More dog advice

If the dog is going back into a kennel or similar closed environment it is best not to wet the hair coat-through. This is because it increases relative humidity and hence heat stress.

To avoid heat stress, it’s best to spray or repeatedly sponge the hair-free areas of the ventral abdomen and between the hind legs with tepid water and also stand their feet in tepid water as thermography images show most heat is found in the caudal abdomen and gracilis (muscle in the inner thigh) i.e. the main drive muscles in the hind legs.

Drape cold damp towels over them, refreshed frequently.

I would always give oral Arnica 200c to an animal I thought was heat stressed.

It would also be good for owners to know how to take a dog’s temperature and know when it indicates heat stress.

A cool coat constantly kept wet is helping my 12-year-old golden doodle. I would not be without this gel coat from Easidri. It can be machine washed and is stored damp. It’s been washed many times, it’s brilliant. I just carry a water bottle with me to top it up or dip it in a clean river and squeeze it before putting it on again!

We have the Easidri cool coats and refresh them every 2 hours. My dogs are in front of the fan a lot of the time. Binky has needed his cool coat a lot. During Saturday and Sunday nights when it was really hot, my alarm was set for every 2 hours through the night so I could refresh it. I’ve also made yogurt ice lollies for them. We go on early walks along the river.

9 pm and it’s still hot in this picture so Sooty has walked in her Easidri cool coat. We’ve used it a lot this year.

Dogs on the streets, DOTS, is a charity looking after dogs and their homeless owners. Imagine the extra problems if you live on the street with your dog in the relentless hot weather. DOTS provide cooling coats for the dogs they help.

We are camping at the moment so sticking to the shade. A wet towel is the only thing we have at the moment but it’s really helping.

It would seem that some dogs such as Kai like a paddling pool and others don’t …..

I second the cool coats, especially the Easidri one that has some weight in it – doesn’t dry too quickly. Any cool coat needs to be wet otherwise they become a warming coat ~ it’s surprising how many people forget to rewet them. I tried our two water-loving dogs with a paddling pool, they wouldn’t use it, I guess the water was too clean! During this heatwave they’ve stayed in the cottage where it’s cool.

Paddling pool ~ Rufus loves it!

I hose the dogs 2 or 3 times a day, but if the hose is not available, any pond/river to swim in (avoiding blue-green algae) or a soaking wet towel is good.

No walks, the 4 of them have run around under the shrubs and laid in the shade. We closed the curtains and had the fan on. They had yoghurt ice cubes. They’ve been fine. The dogs didn’t worry in yesterday’s thunderstorm, but the cat swung on a curtain, brought it and the rail down!!!

All my beardies and Bertie the lurcher have dug cool pits in the garden, taking off the top layer to get to the cooler earth underneath, always using the same spots in the garden. I think Angelo and Sophie (pictured) may have been on the streets as pups ~ I think it’s probably a natural survival instinct in the same way as some dogs will bury bones.

Cold melon and fruit pieces like apples and sometimes apricots as treats – frozen or fridge-cool – and the fan on high. Obviously given as a treat to avoid too much sugar in her system. Everything in moderation!

Fans, cool mat and ice blocks with fruit, etc.

Frozen lick mat with paste or yogurt – especially good if ‘live’ sheep or goat’s yogurt. Home made ice lollies.


There are great articles by the Blue Cross and the PDSA that include how to keep your cat cool indoors and out – making sure there is plenty of water and shade available, keeping them out of warm rooms and keeping them inside during the hottest part of the day.

Put a damp towel on the floor for them to sit/lie on. Have multiple water bowls around the house (not near food bowls). Have windows/doors open where possible for breeze and fresh air. Use fans in the home to move the air. Offer broth ice cubes. Have spare litter trays with water in for playing/cooling. Less fuss. Less play and interaction. Be led by the cat.

I stroke my cat with wet hands to help cool her down and make ice lollies out of her favourite treats.

My cat loves playing with ice cubes on the floor – a new toy!


There are excellent articles here, here, here and here from vets which look at heat exhaustion, heatstroke and what can be done including:

  • The provision of lots of clean water at all times – make sure all the horses in a paddock have access – especially important if horses are bullied
  • Adding electrolytes to replace those lost during times of sweating
  • Ensuring access to shade all day ~ if this is impossible, consider stabling during the shadeless times ~ and keep an eye on weaker horses who may not be ‘allowed’ access to the shade
  • Providing fans in hot stables / barns
  • Not leaving horses in hot trailers
  • Riding early morning or late evening
  • Clipping long-coated horses

We only exercise the horses during the cool of the day.

I give the horse lots of cold showers and apple bobbing to encourage water intake!

I make sure my horse has access to a salt lick in the paddock and his stable. I also keep an eye on the health of his hooves.

I’ll add electrolytes to her water if needed – making sure she has plain water too so she can choose which to drink.

I’ve at least one horse who thinks I should set up garden sprayer in the paddock….. she comes over to be hosed when I’m filling water troughs up!

One of our horses would demand a drink from the hose and practically took the hose to cover himself with water when we were meant to be hosing down inflammation in his hind legs!

Cattle and other livestock

As with other animals, it is important for livestock to have access to plentiful supplies of water and enough shade for the whole herd or flock throughout the day.

I and a number of other farmers put homeopathic Belladonna in the water troughs to reduce heatstroke in cattle.

Chickens and other outdoor birds

Make sure chickens and other outdoor birds have access to water and plenty of shade. Ensure the henhouse is well ventilated. A dust bath may be appreciated. Be sure to treat your birds for red mite as this can cause them even more discomfort in hot weather.

I do several things such as putting a silver reflective sheet up on the front of the run so the full sun isn’t shining on them non stop, reduce or stop sweetcorn in their food as it has warming properties so will naturally raise their body temperature and even create mini ponds for them in their runs that they can stand in, drink from etc!!

I tend to put out chilled blueberries, broccoli, water with ice in it – frozen items can burn the throat as they swallow it. And I put blueberries, raspberries and lettuce leaves in the little mini ponds for them they pick out too.

The quail have chinchilla sand in their dust bath and we spritz it with water to cool it down which they all love!

The chooks have fridge-cold corn on the cobs in the shade to peck at, very happy ladies. 

I cover the chicken coop with wet towels when it’s really hot.

Rabbits and guinea pigs

Rabbits and guinea pigs can overheat very quickly in hot weather especially in wooden outdoor hutches and sheds. Unfortunately, heatstroke is usually fatal so please take steps to avoid them overheating. This includes things like moving the hutch to a shady area, providing cooling iceblocks and fans and draping a tarpaulin or towel over part of their exercise run, making sure there is still a nice through draught of cool air.

I use a fan and wrap up a large bottle of frozen water in a towel to lie in the rabbit hutch.

The dog’s spare cooling mat comes in handy for the rabbist on really hot days and I sometimes mist them.

The guinea pigs appreciate their fresh veg and fruit even more on hot days – I make sure to put it in the fridge as a cool treat beforehand.

Please also be wary of the danger to rabbits of fly strike in hot weather.

The Blue Cross has an excellent article here with lots of tips to keep your rabbit cool and how to spot heatstroke in a rabbit. Likewise, there’s another great article from the PDSA here. This also covers guinea pigs.

Small animals

As with other pets, it’s vital that small animals have plenty of water and shade. Maybe put them in a cool, airy room but beware of draughts as a cold draught blowing over them all day can become quite dangerous if they have nowhere to shelter. Make sure to check on them regularly. You could put a frozen water bottle OUTSIDE their cage (not inside). Fresh fruit and vegetables will help especially if fridge-cooled. See the PDSA here for more information.

Caged birds

Make sure caged birds have plenty of shade and water. Never put the cage near a window or in direct sunlight. They might also appreciate a bird bath to cool down in. See the PDSA here for more information.

I remember reading that although you think your bird might originate from a more exotic place than here, this doesn’t mean they should be allowed to overheat when the sun beats through the window.

If you have any tips or good references you would like to share with us, please contact us at

You can follow Firedog Kai on Facebook at “Fire Dog Kai” and on Twitter @WMFireDogs

Isobel Hunt

Isobel is a Co-Founder and active CAM4animals supporter along with her Jack Russell who has integrated veterinary care. She has a background in wildlife conservation and writing, and is passionate about the importance of addressing animal welfare and environmental issues.

Disclaimer – Where blogs have been created by a guest author, CAM4Animals has reproduced this in good faith but cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies of information in it or any use you make of this information

This blog may also contain an element of consumer opinionWhilst CAM4animals welcomes positive recommendations for holistic healthcare products, we don’t necessarily endorse the product or the author’s opinion. We acknowledge that each animal is an individual and may react differently to the highlighted product/s. There may also be other products available that produce similarly positive results.

The veterinary Surgeon’s Act 1966 restricts the treatment of animals (usually other than your own*) by anyone other than a qualified vet. Always consult a veterinary surgeon if you are concerned about your animal’s health. *For full details visit the RCVS website

Disclaimer – Where blogs have been created by a guest author, CAM4Animals has reproduced this in good faith but cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies of information in it or any use you make of this information

This blog may also contain an element of consumer opinionWhilst CAM4animals welcomes positive recommendations for holistic healthcare products, we don’t necessarily endorse the product or the author’s opinion. We acknowledge that each animal is an individual and may react differently to the highlighted product/s. There may also be other products available that produce similarly positive results.

The veterinary Surgeon’s Act 1966 restricts the treatment of animals (usually other than your own*) by anyone other than a qualified vet. Always consult a veterinary surgeon if you are concerned about your animal’s health. *For full details visit the RCVS website