Help animals avoid heat stress

Animals are particularly vulnerable during times of extreme heat. We share our top tips for assisting wildlife and companion animals to stay safe and well this summer. 


Summer is a great time of year to get your dose of Vitamin D and enjoy the sunshine. Unfortunately, we are also often hit with extreme temperatures and dry conditions. Messages to ensure your safety are well disseminated. 

Although many people believe that Australian wildlife copes easily in Summer, the truth is that they are particularly vulnerable to heat stress, and just like we do, struggle with extreme temperatures.

Birds are especially vulnerable.

Since wildlife do not have the luxury of access to air conditioning, here are some ways you can assist them during difficult times.

Photo courtesy Macedon Ranges Wildlife Network

1. Leave out shallow bowls of water out in shady areas, some on the ground, and some off the ground for birds and other critters to be able to get to safely (away from predators such as dogs). By leaving small sticks inside, it may help the smaller animals (and insects) from drowning or getting stuck (see photo above). Change the water frequently.

2. If you see a nocturnal animal out on the ground during the day (including koalas), or animals that are unbalanced or appear confused and may even be easily approachable, chances are they are heat stressed or injured. 

Ideally, call a wildlife rescue group for assistance but if you can get the animal into a box, place them in a cool, dark, quiet spot until you are able to get them to a carer or to the vet, or until a rescuer arrives. Offer them water, but no food. Most vets will have networks within wildlife groups and shelters and are best to utilise in any emergency.

3. Keep an emergency kit in your car consisting of a box, gloves, light blanket or pillowcase turned inside out. 

4. Important note about Flying Foxes (fruit bats). There are many Flying foxes that get trapped in tree netting and can die very quickly from exposure. Please do not attempt to touch them. This is for their safety as well as your own. You can place an umbrella over the animal or other forms of shade above them as best you can but please do not touch them. Call an experienced rescuer to assist and mist the bat with water to keep them cool while you wait for the rescuer to arrive.  

To help them from getting trapped in the first place, never use netting with apertures that you can get through finger through. Example of wildlife friendly netting can be found here. 

Companion Animals

1. Companion animals are best kept inside  where it’s cooler on hot days. Not only does it help them beat the heat, it allows for safe access to water for wildlife. Leave out wet towels on tiled floors and fans on if you do not have air conditioning, and keep all the curtains/blinds closed to keep the heat out.

2. If walking your dogs, do it at a time of day when the asphalt/concrete is not burning to the touch as their paws can get burnt, and keep the walk short.

3. Never leave your dogs or other animals in the car. Even when it’s not particularly hot, and with windows open, it can become unbearable in no time and cause them heat stress, and/or death. If you see a car with an animal locked inside, call the authorities immediately. 

Read more about what the laws state and take the RSPCA pledge to never leave your animals locked in a car. 

4. Pet birds, including chickens, are prone to getting heat stress, so ensure that their needs are met on hot days as well.

Further information can be found via organisations such as Wildlife VictoriaMacedon Ranges Wildlife Network, and Animals Australia.

Author: Magda Wozny