Your super furry animal is not built to keep cool. It’s your job, as a super pet pawrent, to keep an eye on your woof during the summer months and sunny days and make sure they’re keeping as cool as possible and not overheating. Hot days in the UK can literally spring on us overnight so it’s always worth knowing how your dog can overheat and what you can do to prevent it.
How can dogs overheat and get heat stroke?
Dogs overheat in one of two ways. They either get too hot exercising in temperatures that they’re not used to (exertional), or they don’t have access to shady spots, ventilation, cool areas or drinking water during hot temperatures (non-exertional). Exertional heat stroke could be caused by walking or exercising during the heat of the day and non-exertional could happen after being in a sunny garden on a hot day with no access to shade, or being in a stationary car.
Dogs can only sweat through their paws and noses and so find it difficult to regulate their temperature. Some dogs are more likely to suffer heat stroke than others (those that are obese as well as some flat-faced breeds), but all dogs are susceptible.
What are the signs of heat stroke in a dog?
Always keep a close eye on your dog on hot days. Heat stroke can be fatal in dogs and needs to be treated fast. There are several signs of heat stroke to look out for:
- Faster and heavier panting than usual: remember dogs cool down by panting so watch out for excessive levels
- Unusual barking or agitated whining
- Extreme thirst
- Excess salivating
- Rapid pulse and increased heartbeat
- Dark red or purple gums or tongue
- Glazed eyes
- Elevated body temperature of 40ºC +
- Weakness and lack of coordination
- Seizures and unconsciousness
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
If you think your dog has heat stroke, it is vital to cool them down without shocking their body. Immediately move them into the shade or a cool place indoors, apply wet towels on the body, particularly the face, head and neck. Give an ice cube to lick and water to drink but not too much and not excessively cold water. Call your vet immediately for advice as well. Cooling your dog down before taking them to the vet can help greatly in their treatment and recovery from heat stroke.
How to keep your dog cool in hot weather and avoid heat stroke
Rather than running the risk of heat stroke, it would be far preferable to avoid it completely. It goes without saying that you should never leave your dog alone in a stationary car, even with the windows open, for any length of time. We have all heard catastrophic tales about dogs in cars – and leaving a dog in a hot car is classed as animal neglect (Animal Welfare Act 2006), resulting in a fine, not to mention major distress and potential harm to the dog.
So what can you do to keep your furry little friend safe in the summer?
- Encourage them to lie in the shade – this can be tricky as lots of dogs love to bask in the sun. But provide a lovely cool area indoors (not in a glass-filled conservatory), perhaps a damp towel to lie on. Make sure there’s air circulating with either windows open or a fan on.
- If your dog will keep venturing into the garden, have a paddling pool for them to cool down in or pop on a sprinkler – this is a bit marmite for most dogs so might send them scuttling off indoors anyway!
- Plan walks for either at the very start of the day or in the evening. Not only is the beating sun very hot, but pavements and roads heat up very quickly. If they’re too hot for your touch, they can burn your dog’s paws.
- Go for shorter walks, if you can, and wear out your dog with some brain games instead – hide snacks in the house, make them an iced treat with their favourite treat food (tuna and yoghurt frozen in a Kong is a favourite) or give them an iced treat to enjoy – try the Billy + Margot range of delicious iced treats. Dogs can cool down through their tongues, so this is a great way to keep them cool.
- If you’re planning to go to the beach, don’t expect your dog to go for a whole day. You know how hot the sand can get – imagine your poor dog’s paws trying to manage. (See our previous blog about taking your dog to the beach.)
- Get the sun cream out. There is special doggy sun cream that can be particularly useful for light coloured or thinly coated dogs. They can burn just like we can so be sure to protect them.
- Make sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh water. When you go out, take a doggy bottle, or bottle and bowl, so they can drink on the go too.
- Look out for special cooling accessories in the shops. From gel-filled cool mats to bandanas that you keep wet, there are all kinds of doggy cooling aids available.
If you do think your dog is suffering from heat stroke, always call your vet for professional advice. Hopefully, if you are aware of the symptoms and the causes of heat stroke, you will know how to lessen the chances and keep your woof cool and safe through our unpredictable summer days.