How to tell if your cat or dog has heatstroke — and what to do about it

A dog sits in the shade on a hot day (Rex)

Britain is already in the midst a heatwave, with temperatures set to rise further over the next few days. 

The mercury will climb over 30c again today, possibly reaching as high as 34c later in the week.

It’s key to keep hydrated in these blistering conditions, but also remember to look out for your pets, who are more susceptible to heatstroke than many realise.

Cats seem better adapted to the heat compared to dogs, but do suffer too. Here’s how to care for your animal friends during this hot weather.

What are the warning signs?

There are many symptoms to look out for in both dogs and cats that may indicate they are suffering from, or are at risk of, heatstroke.

Cats and dogs who are uncomfortable in the heat may become restless, attempting to find a place to cool down. Cats may start drooling and dogs will produce thick, sticky salvia.

One of the key signs is panting, which gets worse as the heatstroke progresses. Cats don’t normally do open-mouth panting, and this is an immediate red flag.

General lethargy, weakness, collapse or dizziness and confusion are again key signs that your dog or cat may have heatstroke.

Vomiting and diarrhoea are also symptoms to look out for during this spell of hot weather. With cats, their tongue or mouth may become red.

What should you do?

If you suspect that your pet is suffering from heatstroke, which can be very serious, you should take them to a vet immediately.

You should also remove your pet from the hot environment as best as you can. With cats, you can apply cool water onto their fur and skin, then fan them.

With dogs, run a cool shower or bath, keeping their head elevated. This prevents pneumonia.

Let dogs drink as much cool or cold water as they want. Adding a bit of salt can help replace lost minerals.

You can place a bag of ice or frozen peas between the legs on your cat, or, for dogs, apply it to the head to help cool them.

What shouldn’t you do?

Don’t use ice-cold water or (direct) ice as this may worsen the problem — you don’t want to cause excessive cooling (hypothermia).

Don’t attempt to treat the cat or dog entirely by yourself.

Heatstroke can be very serious — prolonged high body temperature can lead to organ damage and failure — so a vet should see your animal immediately.

Don’t neglect them after they appear to recover — make sure you keep an eye on them.

Prevention is key. Always make sure you don’t leave your cat or dog somewhere without access to cool shade or plenty of water. Do not leave them in a car on a hot day.