Cooling methods used to manage heat-related illness in dogs presented to primary care veterinary practices during 2016–2018 in the UK

summary of:
Cooling methods used to manage heat-related illness in dogs presented to primary care veterinary practices during 2016–2018 in the UK
Dog being cooled down with water
Hall, E.J.; Carter, A.J.; Bradbury, J.; Beard, S.; Gilbert, S.; Barfield, D. and O’Neill, D.G.
Published in:
July 2023
Type of access:

Open access

In our edition of: Oct 2023
In our categories of: small animals

our summary:

Hall, E.J. et al. (2023) Cooling methods used to manage heat- illness in dogs presented to primary care veterinary practices during 2016-2018 in the UK. Veterinary Sciences, 10 (7), no. 465.

The aim of this retrospective study was to describe the cooling methods used to manage dogs presented to UK primary care veterinary practices with a heat-related illness (HRI) during 2016-2018 to provide a benchmark on current cooling methods. Additionally the study aimed to determine the extent to which the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care’s Veterinary Committee on Trauma (Vet-COT) recommendations regarding prioritising cooling before transport, and the use of cold-water immersion or evaporative cooling to deliver rapid cooling, were being followed. The study hypothesised that adherence to the Vet-COT guidelines would increase over time following their publication in 2016.

The electronic patient records of dogs attending primary care veterinary practices participating in the VetCompass programme for an HRI during 2016-2018 were reviewed. Information on time between exposure to the HRI triggering event and presentation for veterinary treatment, body temperature on presentation and cooling methods used was extracted. Patients with HRI events that were presented for veterinary care longer than 24 hours after the trigger event were excluded.

A total of 623 dogs with HRI events were included. No cooling actions were recorded in 45.26% (282/623) of the patient records. Of the 341 where cooling was recorded 21.70% (74/341) were cooled prior to presentation for veterinary treatment of which 66 (89.19%) received no further active cooling and 8 (10.81%) received further active cooling from the veterinary practice. The remaining 267 dogs only received active cooling at the veterinary practice. The percentage of dogs cooled prior to presentation at the veterinary practice increased numerically over the three years of the study, but the increase was not statistically significantly different by year.

Overall, 23.97% (64/203) dogs were cooled using one of the two Vet-COT recommended cooling methods (cold-water immersion or evaporative cooling). The percentage of dogs cooled using a recommended method reduced numerically across the three years of study but the reduction was not statistically significantly different by year, thus the study hypothesis was rejected. The most frequently recorded cooling method was application of wet towels, and the least frequently recorded method was application of a cold-water enema.

Limitations of the study include the retrospective nature and the inconsistent quality of the data contained within patient records. Whilst not an aim of the study there is no information on outcomes relating to the various methods of cooling.

Take Home

This study provides some evidence on the cooling methods used and the time of their use, in dogs admitted to primary care veterinary practices with an HRI. The results show that there is limited adherence to the Vet-COT best practice recommendations. Further studies that investigate outcomes relating to the cooling method used, and the timing of their application, are required in order to determine the most effective cooling methods.


Hall, E.J. et al. (2021) Proposing the VetCompass Clinical Grading Tool for heat-related illness in dogs. Scientific Reports, 11, no. 6828.

Hall, E.J., Carter, A.J. and O’Neill D.G. (2020) Dogs don’t die just in hot cars–exertional heat-related illness (heatstroke) is a greater threat to UK dogs. Animals, 10, 1324

Hanel, R.M. et al. (2016) Best practice recommendations for prehospital veterinary care of dogs and cats. Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, 26 (2), pp. 166-233.

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