Heatstroke in Dogs
With the record-breaking temperatures of last years summer, there’s no surprise that heatwaves are now thirty times more likely in the UK. It’s not just us humans affected but our fluffy favourites are most at risk. So, think ahead and plan how you can prevent heatstroke in dogs and keep them cool at home or away on holiday…
Keeping cool at home
Being a dog owner, you’ll know that dogs cannot sweat like us mere humans. To help keep their bodies cool and temperature regulated, dogs will pant and sweat from the paw pads and nose. In an unsuitable environment, dogs can succumb to heatstroke in a matter of minutes. Some of the key symptoms of heatstroke in dogs are dribbling, excessive panting, loss of energy and lack of responsiveness. As soon as you notice that they are acting/looking out of sorts, move them to a shaded spot and call your vet. Heatstroke in dogs is fairly easy to identify but they will often push themselves to complete exhaustion to carry on playing and receive recognition for being such a good boy! So it is imperative to keep a close eye on them and not exert them on those warmer days.
Some of the easiest and most effective ways to keep dogs cool in the summer are to:
- Give plenty of clean drinking water
- Make sure there’s a cool, shaded area for them to relax in
- Get a cooling jacket, drench it in water, ring it out and place on your dog so they’ll stay cool for hours
- Remember to not leave wet food out for too long in rising temperatures. Bacteria are easily spread by flies and can cause illness
- Consider setting up a fan for those stuffy days when you’re at work and unable to leave windows open
Out and about
Just as you would at home or on your summer excursions, remember to prepare your doggy essentials before heading out into the sun. Many will probably scoff at the thought of applying sunscreen to their pets but they burn too! Especially the lighter coated or thinner furred types. Pop a little Aniwell FiltaClear on their ears, nose or other exposed skin areas.
It’s good practice to take your dog for walks during the early morning or later evening so they don’t exert themselves too much. If you and your pooch are keen cross-country competitors, it’s probably best to reschedule for a cooler day. While humans can and often push themselves to extremities, you shouldn’t expect your dog to do so. It’s also wise to pop your hand on the pavement to test the temperature before walkies. If you can’t leave your hand on the ground for longer than 5 seconds, it’ll be too hot for their paws! Always remember to check the weather forecast before you head out. It’s worth looking out not just for sunny days but also days that are particularly humid.
Swimming is a great way to cool down while getting in some exercise. Dog-friendly beaches, rivers and lakes are prime places to let your pooch release their inner water pups! As with all water, be sure it is safe before letting them go in and, if possible, encourage them to walk in rather than run. We know, spoilsports but if it’s too cold, it could send them into shock.
Dogs, hot cars and heatstroke
If you’ve heard it once you’ve heard it a million times but we’ll still say it again till we’re blue in the face: never, ever leave your dog in a hot car! As previously mentioned, dogs do not sweat through their skin so overheat very easily. In just 21°C heat, your car could reach 40°C in under thirty minutes and can have fatal consequences within 15 minutes.
If on a hot day, you find a dog in a hot car you are at liberty to call the police or the RSPCA. Depending on the severity of the incident they may result in smashing the window to give necessary treatment to the dog. While you wait for either authorities or the owner to return, take photos of the distressed animal and take contact details of any witnesses.
While all dogs are at risk of heatstroke, certain types of dogs are more susceptible. For instance, flat-faced breeds like pugs, bulldogs and Pekingese are more at risk. Older dogs also need a closer eye kept on them during the summer months. Some of the key symptoms of heat stroke include excessive drooling, heavy panting, lethargy, passing out and vomiting. It’s important that you allow their temperature to decrease slowly but as soon as you’re made aware of your dogs’ condition you should:
- move them to a shady, cool area
- either place a cooling vest on them or damp towel. Do not douse them in freezing water to avoid shock
- give your dog small amounts of water
- contact your vets
Whether you’re off on a summer road trip or driving to the shops. Try and consider your pets comfort in the back of the car. Here are a few pointers to bear in mind:
- Keep the air-con on to keep the air circulating around the car
- If they are right in the back of the car/in the boot make sure the cool air can reach them
- Make sure there is shade where they are laid – direct sunlight is baking hot through the window. Touch the top of the dashboard – if it’s hot on your hand, it’ll be boiling for them too!
- Make sure you stop frequently for the 3 W’s: walks, wees and plenty of water
- Check you have plenty of water for the duration of your journey
- While the pure and unmitigated look of joy on a dog’s face when they’ve got their heads out the window is a sight to behold – there is the risk of getting debris in their eyes or worse dangers like jumping out into oncoming traffic
Whether you’re planning a UK summer jaunt or a trip to some far-flung destination, make sure you’re prepared with our travelling with your pet guide. More than anything, remember it is summer. Revel in it. Enjoy it. Before you know it will be complaining about the snow, rain, wind or all three. Just enjoy it with an eye on your fur-covered friend’s body temperature.
This article is for guidance only and if you have any concerns about your pet you should always seek the advice of a qualified vet.
If in doubt contact your veterinary practice
And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!