Research Opportunities

MRes - Validating the VetCompass Clinical Grading Tool for Heat-related Illness in Dogs

Supervisor:    Dr Dan O’Neill, Emily J. Hall, Dr Sophie Gilbert & Dr Anne J. Carter

Department:  Pathobiology and Population Sciences

Project Details

Heat-related illness is a potentially fatal, yet largely preventable condition in dogs. Climate change is predicted to cause more frequent and extreme heat-wave events prompting calls for urgent heat risk awareness and heat mitigation strategy development. Previous research from the RVC’s VetCompass team has identified canine risk factors for heat-related illness using data from dogs under UK primary veterinary care, which include skull shape, age, breed, bodysize and being overweight1. Over 70% of heat-related illness cases were triggered by exercise2. During 2016, 1-in-7 dogs presenting to veterinary clinics with heat-related illness died as a result of their heat-related illness condition. This work led to the development of the VetCompass Clinical Grading Tool for heat-related illness in dogs, a practice based resource to support evidence-based triage of heat-related illness cases and to provide a prediction of clinical outcomes3.

This part-time 2-year MRes project aims to extend our earlier body of theoretical work based on general first opinion caseloads by evaluating and validating the VetCompass Clinical Grading Tool in real-world clinical cases presenting for emergency veterinary care in the UK. This project will use quality improvement (QI) methods to prospectively trial the Clinical Grading Tool at point-of-care in Vets Now emergency veterinary clinics in the UK to evaluate the uptake, clinical utility and predictive ability in a real-world setting.

Due to the seasonality of heat-related illness, this project is being offered as a part-time (2 year) MRes to ensure a full one-year clinical audit cycle can be completed. The project will utilize both quantitative and qualitative research methods involving both detailed analysis of electronic patient records and collections of clinician feedback to audit the clinical application of the tool. The project will collaborate with the Hot Dogs research team at Nottingham Trent University4. Previous experience working in a clinical veterinary setting is essential, as are strong verbal and written communication skills. 



  1. Hall, E.J., Carter, A.J., O'Neill, D.G., 2020. Incidence and risk factors for heat-related illness (heatstroke) in UK dogs under primary veterinary care in 2016. Scientific Reports 10, 9128. 2.
  2. Hall, E.J., Carter, A.J., 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.
  3. Hall, E.J., Carter, A.J., Bradbury, J., Barfield, D., O’Neill, D.G., 2021. Proposing the VetCompass clinical grading tool for heat-related illness in dogs. Scientific Reports 11, 6828.
  4. HOT DOGS. 2022. Hot Dogs - heatstoke education for dog owners [Online]. Hot Dogs,. Available: [Accessed 2 February 2022].




  • Must meet our standard MRes entry requirements
  • Veterinary medicine or Veterinary nursing degree
  • Strong evidence of experience or interest in statistical analysis and/or qualitative research
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills


  • Experience working in UK veterinary companion animal practice
  • Evidence of an interest in public engagement and science communication
  • Evidence of experience in quality improvement (QI)


This is offered as a part-time (0.5 FTE) two-year project commencing in October 2022. The project team will be based at RVC's Hawkshead campus but there is potential for remote working if needed.



This is a funded project: The project costs and “Home” tuition fees are covered by funding from Dogs Trust Canine Welfare Grants.The student will receive a stipend.

International applicants are welcome to apply but must be able to fund the difference between "Home" and "Overseas" tuition fees.

Please note that EU/EEA and Swiss national students may no longer be eligible for the “Home” rate of tuition fees, dependent on personal circumstances (including immigration status and residence history in the UK) and UK government rules which are currently being developed. For up-to-date information on fees for EU/EEA and Swiss national students following Brexit please see our fees and funding page.

A postgraduate master's loan is avaliable to help cover costs.


How to Apply

For more information on the application process and English Language requirements see How to Apply.

Deadline: 10th March 2022

Interviews will take place remotely over zoom.

We welcome informal enquiries - these should be directed to 

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