First aid for heatstroke

isolated dog cat and rabbits


  • Heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency.
  • Common signs including panting, trouble breathing and collapse/fainting.
  • It is important to get help from a vet ASAP if you think your pet may have heatstroke.

What to do if you think your pet has heat stroke:

Step one: Check them

  • Check your pet for the common signs of heatstroke such as excessive panting, trouble breathing and collapse.
  • Avoid stressing your pet by staying calm and using a quiet voice to sooth them.
  • If you suspect your pet has heatstroke, phone your vets and start cooling them immediately (step two).

Step two: Cool them

  • Never use ice or very cold water to cool your dog – this could cause shock.
  • Move your pet into a cool space that is out of direct sunlight. If they are large, you may need to use a towel or blanket to move them.
  • Use a fan or air-conditioning to cool the air around them.
  • Give them cool (not freezing cold) water to drink.
  • Put them on top of a wet towel to start cooling them.
  • Slowly wet their feet, ears and fur.
  • Once your pet starts to cool down you can pour cool water over their body.

Step three: Call your vet

  • Call your vet for advice as soon as you have moved your pet into a cool area and started cooling them down.
  • If your pet is struggling to breathe, call your vet for advice immediately.
  • Transport your pet (ideally in an air-conditioned vehicle) and continue cooling them on the journey.

Coronavirus: Always call before arriving at your veterinary practice, during the current COVID-19 crisis, your vet will be operating a limited service and may not have staff at all sites.

More information

Read our article on for more information about heatstroke in dogs.

Published: March 2020

PetWise Pet Health Hub – brought to you thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery 

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

Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst