Sunnybank Veterinary Clinic (07) 3345 6689

Dangers of the Heat

I'm not dressed for this Weather


With the mercury rising we seek refuge at the beach, under the shade of a tree or in the comfort of an air-conditioned cinema. Unfortunately it is not as easy for our pets to stay cool in our hot Australian climate. Hot weather is a familiar contributing factor to what may result in an emergency visit to the vet.

The heat can affect your pet in a number of ways. Heat stroke and burns are common emergency situations that we face in the Veterinary Clinic.

Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature is elevated beyond a point that has potential to cause harm to the body systems. The body works hard to maintain its’ ideal temperature. In a dog this is 38-39.2°C and a cat 37.7-39.1°. When the surrounding temperature is very high the body may be unable to compensate which causes the body temperature to soar. Left untreated, heat stroke may cause damaged to vital organs and/or result in death.

Early Signs of Heat Stroke:


  • Panting
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive salivation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Bright red gums
  • Wobbly gait
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting


If left untreated


  • Blood in faeces
  • Shock
  • Organ failure
  • Fluid build-up in lungs
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death


It is important to appreciate a few differences between your furry companion and yourself. Unlike humans dogs cannot sweat, instead they pant to lower their body temperature.  Panting works most of the time though is not as effective as sweating. Would you wear a jumper in summer, not likely? Remember that your pet is covered in a coat and for some TWO COATS! Remember that your pet does not wear shoes! Walking on hot cement/sand HURTS!

BURNS go paw in paw with the heat. We see a number of dogs come into clinics that have bad burns to their little paws. The cement and sand quickly heat up in summer so please remember this when you are contemplating taking your pooch on a walk.


Some of our pinker patients are particularly sensitive to the sun. Dogs and cats are also at risk of sunburn. In breeds that have pink pigmented skin (particularly on their nose and bellies) you can apply some toxin free pet sunscreen to the areas to avoid getting burnt.


How you can help protect your pets from the heat

  • ALWAYS have a source of reliable shelter. Relying on the backyard tree is not sufficient. Your may need to put up a canopy in your yard or allow access to the back patio.
  • Supply a number of water sources for your pet. Your excitable pooch may tip over a bowl of water and being left for a day in 40° heat is a recipe for disaster. Buying weighted drinking bowls is a good idea to prevent tipping.
  • A trip to the local groomer for our thick coated family members may help them keep their cool this summer.
  • Supply a pool. Placing a large but shallow body of water (to avoid drowning) is a good way for pets to cool down. Children’s plastic sandpit shells work well.
  • NEVER leave your pet alone in a car for ANY amount of time.  
  • Stick to walking your dogs during cooler times of the day. Early morning and late in the afternoon are much easier on your pets. Avoid walking on the cement and hot sand
  • Try leaving homemade ice blocks with your pet for a fun game and cool treat. Freeze plain water or flavour with a drop of chicken stock or tuna juice in a large ice cream container.
  • When travelling/walking with your dog, have a supply of water for your journey. Collapsible water bowls can be purchased and you can share your bottle of water.
  • Toxin free pet sunscreen to your dogs’ pink pigmented skin to avoid getting sun burnt.
  • If your pet is showing signs of Heat stroke place damp towels over them (never use ice) to help lower the body temperature. Proceed to your veterinarian immediately.
  • Run cool (not COLD) water over or place damp towels on burnt paws and immediately go to your vet for treatment.





Jo Tolley (Veterinary Nurse) 2014