First aid for heatstroke


  • Heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency that can affect any animal that gets too hot.
  • If you suspect your pet has heatstroke, start first aid immediately.
  • The faster your pet is cooled down, the higher the chance they will make a full recovery.

First aid

  1. Move your pet indoors to a cool room or into the shade
  2. Cool them down straight away
    • Gently pour cold water (water from the cold tap is fine) over their whole body
      • Avoid their nose and mouth
      • Go slowly so they don’t panic
      • Aim to soak their whole body
      • Be very careful not to stress them out if they aren’t used to water, i.e. rabbits, small rodents, and most cats
      • If they are unconscious, be extra careful they don’t inhale any water by keeping it away from their nose and mouth
    • Create a breeze (use a fan, air-con, or open doors and windows)
    • Offer them a drink of cold water (don’t force them to drink)
    • Put them on top of a cold wet towel
    • Wrap an ice pack or some frozen veg in a towel and place it in between their thighs (if they are small, place them on top of it)
    • Don’t cuddle them or cover them with a wet towel, as this will make them hotter
  1. Call your vet as soon as possible
    • Ideally go to your nearest vets
    • Transport them in an air-conditioned car or a car with the windows open (but make sure they can’t escape)
    • If possible bring someone with you to keep cooling them while you travel
Updated: September 2023

Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only. Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst.