Heatstroke warning for dogs – which breeds are at risk?

Heatstroke warning for dogs – which breeds are at risk?

As the weather heats up again, we thought we would share the findings of some recent research by Nottingham Trent University and the Royal Veterinary College into the causes of heatstroke in dogs.

The researchers were investigating which specific breeds of dog are most susceptible to heat stroke – in order to help the owners of those breeds to be more prepared during the summer months. 

In what is thought to be the largest study of its kind. The researchers examined the medical records of more than 900,000 dogs across the UK. Using Labrador Retrievers as a ‘base’ dog to compare with other breeds, they found that certain breeds – and especially flat-faced dogs - are more likely to suffer from heatstroke than others.

French Bulldog - Photo by Erik Mclean on UnsplashFrench Bulldog - Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Flat-faced dogs most at risk of heatstroke

The combination of a rise in demand for flat-faced dogs with an increase in the frequency and severity of heatwaves in the UK due to climate change, means that it is essential that dog owners become more aware of the risks in order to prevent more pets from suffering in the future. The researchers suggest that vets should advise potential owners of this when choosing a breed. 

Bulldog - Photo by Lauren McConachie on UnsplashBulldog - Photo by Lauren McConachie on Unsplash

Known as ‘brachycephalic dogs, flat-faced dogs including Pugs, Chow Chows and French Bulldogs have soared in popularity - but lead researcher at Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences said the flat face which makes these breed appear ‘cute’ and appealing is clearly causing them problems too:

“It’s likely that brachycephalic dogs overheat due to their intrinsically ineffective cooling mechanisms. Dogs pant to cool down – without a nose, panting is simply less effective.   In fact, brachycephalic dogs may even generate more heat simply gasping to breathe than they lose by panting.” 

The study identified 395 confirmed cases of heat-related illness – of which 56 died – but think that the actual figure may be much higher as many dogs that have been affected by heatstroke might not have paid a visit to the vet. 

Bulldogs top the at-risk list, being 14 times more likely to suffer from heatstroke than a Labrador -  French Bulldogs are six times more likely - and Pugs are twice as likely. Chow Chows, Dogue de Bordeaux and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are also thought to be at significant risk. 

Chow Chow - Photo by Pauline Loroy on UnsplashChow Chow - Photo by Pauline Loroy on Unsplash

Other breeds at risk

But it’s not just flat-faced dogs that are at risk – the study found that Springer Spaniels, Golden Retrievers and Greyhounds were more likely to develop heat-related illnesses than a Labrador Retriever.

Other factors that could increase your dog’s risk of heat stroke are their age and being overweight. 

Springer Spaniel - Photo by Dan on UnsplashSpringer Spaniel - Photo by Dan on Unsplash

Preventing and treating heat stroke in dogs 

Speaking about the study, Paula Boyden Veterinary Director at Dog’s Trust said: 

“Dogs are unable to regulate their body temperature as well as humans do, so as the weather warms up, we need to be alert to the signs of heatstroke. 

“These findings show that owners of flat-faced breeds and dogs who are overweight need to keep an especially close eye on their beloved pet during the warm weather as they could be at greater risk.

“The good news is there are lots of things we can do to make sure our dogs stay happy and healthy in hot weather, whether outside or playing indoors as many of us are at the moment.

“Make sure they have plenty of shade and water, and if you need to head out in the car with your dog, please be very careful."

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel - Photo by Liesbet Delvoye on UnsplashCavalier King Charles Spaniel - Photo by Liesbet Delvoye on Unsplash

Speaking to NBC News Dr Daniel Fletcher, Associate Professor of Emergency and Critical Care at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Suggested that some breeds of dog get into trouble because of their enthusiasm for play:

“The ones with excited, active personalities will just go and chase the ball and chase the ball and chase the ball. You don’t realise they are in trouble till it’s too late. They’re a little too good to us, to their own detriment sometimes.”

Pug - Photo by Karin Hiselius on UnsplashPug - Photo by Karin Hiselius on Unsplash

If your dog is panting excessively you should take them to a cool area and douse them with room temperature water:

“If the dog is not back to normal breathing in 15 minutes it’s a good idea to get the dog to a vet. If the dog’s temperature goes above 41 or 42°C, you can get damage to the organs and the dog’s ability to make blood clots.”

It is essential to continue to monitor your dog afterwards, as Fletcher explains:

“Sometimes they may initially seem to go back to normal, but in a couple of hours or a day the dog might develop kidney failure or respiratory or heart issues.”

For more tips on how to keep your dog cool this summer, check out our previous blog post: How to keep your dog cool during a heatwave – and If you’ve got any tips for keeping your dog cool this summer, let us know in the comments section below!

Main Photo by Tom Hills on Unsplash

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