It’s that time of year again. The BBQs and paddling pools are out and the icecream van is jingling along at the end of the road. But behind closed doors our poor dogs are struggling. Educational graphics about walking dogs in extreme heat are everywhere and stories go viral involving strangers smashing car windows to let overheating dogs out.
In a nutshell: Us humans love a bit of sun, but heat waves can be dangerous for our dogs. This is because dogs are much less efficient than us at cooling down in warm temperatures. Whereas humans can sweat through pretty much any part of our body to cool down, dogs only have sweat glands in their feet and around their nose. This makes it much more difficult for them to remain cool and much easier to overheat.
Dogs can develop heatstroke very quickly in conditions like we are experiencing this week, and this can easily become fatal if not treated quickly. Thank you to those of you who are being sensible with your furry friends this week and staying out of the sun! Here are a few tips and tricks to make this time as comfortable as possible for your furry friends.
1 – Walkies at Dawn
If you do insist on walking your dog during a heatwave, get out there at the crack of dawn. Air temperatures and pavements tend to be cooler in the mornings than the evening, which will keep your dog safe. Stick to shaded areas and take water with you. Walkies in temperatures over 23C are not recommended.
2 – Low impact enrichment:
Asking your dog to find little treats around the house will get their mind working and can be just as tiring as a walk! Snuffle mats, frozen Lickimats and placing their toys in the paddling pool to fish out are excellent ways to keep your dogs entertained in the heat. Keeping things calm and relaxed is key! Too much over excitement can result in an increase in body temperature and lead to heat stroke.
3 – Keeping curtains closed and windows open:
Something as simple as this can help keep your rooms at home cool and your dog more comfortable.
4 -Invest in a Cool Mat for your dog to lounge on:
Purchasing a cool mat could be one of the best things you do for your dog this summer! Usually gel based, you can pop them in the fridge or freezer to get lovely and chilly. These can be found in all sizes at most pet shops, even for our bigger furry friends! If you can’t get hold of one, a cool damp towel can work just as well.
5 – Filling up the Paddling Pool:
For those water babies that like to wallow! These are available everywhere, I got mine off Facebook Marketplace for free!
6 – Adding a bit of water to their meals:
As well as providing a constant supply of cool, fresh water during the day, adding a splash to your dog’s meals is an additional method to keep them hydrated.
7 – Allow extra time for naps and sleeping:
Lounging about all day might be all your dog needs on those sweltering days. The calmer they are, the less likely they are to overheat. Allow those extra spread-eagle naps and keep checking that they are not getting too hot in their bed.
8 – Is your Doggy Daycare or Dog Walker still operating?
Ask your Doggy Daycare Facility and/or dog walkers what their protocols are during extreme heat. All reputable pet care professionals will know that walking dogs in this heat is dangerous. Many will offer pop-in visits as an alternative to a walk, or close Daycare altogether in this weather. If your Doggy Daycare or Dog Walker continues to operate as normal, do not feel obliged to send your dog if you feel they are being put at risk. You know your dog more than anyone and the professional should probably know better.
9 – Avoid travel where necessary:
Please do not leave your dog in a hot car, windows open or not! Sunshine coming through windows turns cars into turbo-greenhouses. Just don’t do it – It is not worth the risk.
10 – Keep on top of grooming:
It is a myth that all dogs should be close shaved in the summer – actually the opposite is true! Some breeds, such as German Shepherds, Malamutes and Samoyed, need to keep their fluffy overcoats to protect them from UV rays and this part of their coat actually works as an insulator to keep them cool. Your professional groomer will be able to advise you on the best way to keep your dog comfortable during a heatwave. A nice brush every day at home can also help remove excess fur and relieve your dog of extra bulk.
11 – Understanding how your breed is affected differently to others:
We know that some breeds and types of dog are more likely to develop heatstroke, even in less extreme conditions. Research has shown that Brachycephalic or flat-nosed breeds such Bulldogs, Pugs and Frenchies are at much greater risk of developing heatstroke than dogs with longer snouts (1). Also, dogs that weigh over 50kg are at much higher risk. Your little Pug may want to go for a walk with your Labrador, but may have to stay at home in a temperature that your Labrador can cope with.
12 – Knowing the signs of heatstroke:
Knowing the signs of heatstroke is one of the most important things you can do as a dog owner, especially during a heatwave. If you notice any of the following, please seek veterinary assistance immediately.
- Excessive/severe panting
- Reddened (or sometimes pale) gums
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Mental dullness or loss of consciousness
- Difficultly with coordination
- Nose bleeds (or other bleeding issues)
- Blood in Urine
If you are concerned that your dog is showcasing any of the symptoms, do not panic but act calmly and quickly. Get your dog out of the sun and sponge them down with cool (not cold) water and try to bring their body temperature down slowly. The most important thing to do is to contact your vet immediately for advice and help.
With all of this in mind, heat stroke in dogs can be fatal but also very easily avoided! Take care and make sure that your furry friends receive extra consideration through the heatwave, and try as many of these tips as you can!
Becki Gude PACT-KSA
ABTC Registered Animal Trainer
(1) Hall et al (2020) “Incidence and risk factors for heat-related illness (heatstroke) in UK dogs under primary veterinary care in 2016” (online access) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-66015-8