Heat stress is a physical environmental stressor, which can affect performance, health and welfare of poultry. The present study investigates the effect of cyclic acute heat stress as a predisposing factor for necrotic enteritis in broiler chicks in an experimental challenge model. Two hundred and forty broiler chicks were randomly allocated to four treatment groups, as follows: group A served as negative control (25 degrees C), group B birds were subjected to cyclic acute heat stress (35 degrees C), group C birds were challenged and group D birds were both subjected to heat stress and challenged. From each bird, the intestine, gizzard and liver were collected and scored for gross lesions. The intestinal digesta was collected for pH and viscosity determination. One caecum from each bird was taken for microbiological analysis. The statistical analysis and evaluation of data revealed that the heat stress in challenged birds showed a relative trend to increase the severity and the incidence of necrotic enteritis lesions, although it was not considered as statistically significant (P = 0.077). Additionally, the heat stress induced necrotic enteritis outbreak in unchallenged birds; the challenge of birds as well as its combination with the heat stress affected significantly (P <= 0.05) the pH and viscosity of intestinal digesta and the caecal Clostridium perfringens counts. The study provides evidence that cyclic acute heat stress is an environmental stressor, which can significantly affect necrotic enteritis and gut health, and thus should be taken into account in warmer areas of the world where poultry farming becomes a major industry.