Keeping your pet safe in summer

As we move closer to summer in Australia, many of us look forward to the longer days, time outdoors, and enjoying the warmer weather with our pets. While summer is undoubtedly a time for fun and celebration, all pet owners need to be prepared for the potential issues that summer can pose for our furry friends. The two most significant dangers to our pets in summer are heatstroke and sunburn.

Heatstroke in pets

Longer days and warmer weather means more opportunities to spend time outdoors with your pet. While this is a fantastic way to bond with them, it’s important to be aware that heat stroke is a very real issue for pets in Australia.

Pets which are at a greater risk of heat stroke include long or dark-haired, overweight, and brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds. However, every pet is at risk of developing heat stroke if they are heavily exercised during extreme heat.

Identifying Heatstroke

Heatstroke may cause some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Heavy panting or difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Collapse
  • Core temperature raised above 40°C
  • Increased heart rate
  • Bright red or bluish-purple gums from lack of oxygen to the tissues
  • Excessive salivation


If your pet is suffering from heatstroke, they should receive veterinary attention immediately. In the meantime, take your pet out of direct exposure to the heat and place them by a fan. Use a wet towel or cool water (not chilled) to lower your pet's temperature gradually. Avoid cooling your pet too quickly (e.g by putting them in cold water) as this can cause additional health problems.

Heatstroke is a very serious condition and if your pet's body temperature is elevated for even a short period of time this can cause irreparable damage to their nerves and organs causing death. Pets who are kept inside cars on warm or hot days are at a very high risk of developing heatstroke and we strongly recommend never leaving a dog inside a car unattended. Read our guide on what to do if you see a dog locked inside a hot car.

Sun protection and your pet

Pets that are most at risk of sunburn are those with white or light coloured fur due to the decreased pigment levels in their skin. Breeds at a particular risk include bull terriers, border collies, boxers, dalmatians, greyhounds, whippets, and staffies. The most common areas on the body to experience sun damage are their ears, eyelids, nose and belly. Lesions caused by sun exposure can be very uncomfortable, painful and lead to more serious conditions such as cancer.

Avoidance is the best prevention when it comes to sun protection. Keeping your pet indoors or in shaded areas during peak UV radiation times (between 11am-4pm) is best. When your know your pet is going to be exposed, use a pet safe sunscreen and carefully apply to vulnerable areas. In some instances, a UV resistant sunsuit may be the best option for your pet, just make sure you still coat their ears and nose with sunscreen.

Let's get back to that summer loving!

Summer is a wonderful time of year and by no means does your pet have to be locked up in air conditioning all day long! Just avoid exercising your dog or cat during the middle of the day and instead either go early morning or in the late afternoon/evening. Dogs suffering from heatstroke or severe sun exposure should be taken to a veterinarian for immediate attention.

Make sure your pet always has access to shelter and fresh water in a sturdy bowl that can't be knocked over if they must be left outside on hot days. You can even try a water fountain to keep your pet’s water fresh, filtered, and to encourage them to drink more.

And remember!

Pets most at risk of HEATSTROKE are those with:

  • Dark coloured coats
  • Pushed in faces

Pets most at risk of UV DAMAGE are those with:

  • White or light coloured coats
  • Short, thin or patchy fur and exposed skin

Posted by Dr Carla Paszkowski

When Carla isn’t talking about petcare at PetCircle, she enjoys playing mum to her fluffy little cross-eyed feline fur baby, Smudge.

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