Protecting Employees and Volunteers


Treating animals of any size is strenuous work under the best conditions. Working long hours in hot weather without the proper precautions can easily lead to heat-induced illness. Proper preparation, communication, hydration, and attire can be the key to keeping your team safe.

When temperatures exceed 90°F, the human body sweats in an attempt to cool down. However, the more your body sweats, the more your internal temperature increases, and this change can result in physical and mental exhaustion. Fatigue caused by prolonged heat exposure can lead to clouded judgment, fainting, and dehydration. When paired with heavy equipment and working with live animals, it can result in serious injury or illness.

Heat-induced illness can reduce your staff’s ability to effectively treat patients and can present a danger to others in the treatment setting. What’s more, if an employee or volunteer falls ill due to high temperatures, others may need to make up for that lost productivity, putting further strain on their bodies.

That’s why it is essential to provide employees clear guidelines for working in such conditions, including:

  • Wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing
  • Avoiding prolonged exposure to direct sunlight
  • Staying hydrated
  • Taking frequent breaks
  • Reporting any symptoms of heat-induced illness immediately


Associate veterinarians, veterinary technicians, handlers, clients—no matter who you’re working with, open communication is crucial to hot weather safety. If you feel unwell or if anyone you’re working with appears to be exhibiting signs of heat-induced illness (see below), speak up. In addition, adjust work activities to reduce risk. Schedule heavier tasks earlier in the day, set up work areas in the shade, and rotate workers to less strenuous or cooler areas when possible. Extra rest and acclimatization to the heat will go a long way to keeping you and your team healthy in the sun.


Hydration is the most important way to control the effects of heat on the body. It’s recommended to hydrate every 15-20 minutes when working outdoors. While water is typically the go-to liquid for hydration, it’s not the only beverage that can be consumed on a hot day. In addition to fluids, sweat also contains sodium, electrolytes, and other minerals. Gatorade® and other sports drinks can help replace these additional elements and boost electrolytes. For the best hydration, consider a combination of sports drinks and water. During heavy work in a hot environment, drink two to four cups (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour.

Proper Attire

In order for sweat to successfully cool your body, it must evaporate from your skin. Light, loose clothing allows your skin to breathe and allows for evaporation to occur. Long sleeves, full-length pants, and hats are also recommended to prevent sun exposure. Sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher should be applied to cover all exposed skin. Don’t forget to apply to your neck, your ears, and the top of your head. Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every two hours. Lastly, polarized sunglasses offer protection from UV rays that can damage your eyes.

Heat Exhaustion versus Heatstroke



First Aid Tips

Heat exhaustion can easily be overlooked by outdoor workers since many of the telltale signs are common on a hot day. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke.

·       Excessive sweating

·       Muscle fatigue

·       Headache

·       Rapid pulse

·       Rest in a cool place

·       Try to lower heart rate

·       Drink cool fluids

·       Loosen clothing

Heatstroke occurs when your core body temperature reaches 104F. Anyone experiencing heatstroke required immediate medical attention. Heatstroke can cause vital organ damage (including the brain) and death.

·       Nausea

·       Vomiting

·       Flushed skin

·       Loss of consciousness

·       Altered mental state

·       Call 911

·       Move to a cool area

·       Elevate feet

·       Ice packs on neck, underarms, groin

·       Drink cool fluids

·       Stay until EMS arrives