Taking care of your dog in the heat

Taking care of your dog in the heat

As temperatures look set to soar this weekend we are revisiting this topic again – and with some new information – to help you protect your pooch as the mercury begins to rise again here in the UK.

Dogs Die on Hot Walks

We are all by now aware of the brilliant work done by the RSPCA to raise awareness of the fact that Dogs Die in Hot Cars, but did you know about their new campaign? #DogsDieOnHotwalks is designed to draw attention to the fact that walking your dog during a heatwave can be a really bad idea.

If in doubt, stay home and chill by the pool. Photo by Izabelly Marques on UnsplashIf in doubt, stay home and chill by the pool. Photo by Izabelly Marques on Unsplash

Our dogs live in the moment, always focused on the task at hand and fixated on the idea of a game of fetch or a nice walk rather than how hot they are feeing or how thirsty they are. As responsible pet owners it is your job to make sure you protect your dog from the heat as they don't always think about where they are going or how hot it is, as long as they are with you and they are having fun. Just because their tail is wagging or they seem happy - walkies in the blazing sunshine isn’t always the best idea – and sometimes the effects of the heat don’t hit them until your return home. 

According to the RSPCA, it’s not unusual for dogs to need veterinary care after they have overheated on a walk. It actually affects ten times more dogs than overheating in hot cars (albeit this is because people don’t leave dogs in hot cars very often these days).

As a side note, if you do happen to see a dog in a hot car you could be charged with criminal damage if you break a window to rescue it. Call the police to deal with the issue instead. Search the local area to see if you can locate the owner and try the car door handles (and let the police know that is what you are going to do).

A naughty golden retriever channeling Theresa May. Photo by Michael Barnes on UnsplashA naughty golden retriever channeling Theresa May. Photo by Michael Barnes on Unsplash

How do I know if it is too hot?

If you’re hot on your walk, then chances are your dog will be too. If you have a thick-coated dog or a flat-faced breed they won’t be able to regulate their temperature as well as you can either, and they certainly can’t strip off a layer of clothing! Hot pavements can also cause problems, so get down and feel the tarmac, if you wouldn’t walk on it barefoot then it’s not reasonable to expect your dog to do so. If you’re in any doubt, just don’t walk them. Stay at home and find other ways to keep them occupied and keep cool. If you have a dog that needs a lot of exercise then try walking them very early in the morning or late in the evening when the temperature has dropped.

Pugs can't pant as well as other dogs, photo by Emmanuel Butrón Zapata on UnsplashPugs can't pant as well as other dogs, photo by Emmanuel Butrón Zapata on Unsplash

Signs of heatstroke in dogs 

Dogs usually start to experience heat exhaustion when their core temperature reaches 32°C, with heatstroke kicking in when they go above 40°C. You know your dog better than anyone else so keep a close eye on them to see if you can spot any signs of overheating:

  • Are they breathing more heavily than usual?
  • Do they have less energy?
  • Are they less playful than normal?
  • Are they panting more?
  • Are they stumbling or laying down?

If they are doing any of these things, then they could be overheating. Stop moving, give them some water and find some shade immediately. Keep an eye on your dog as they recover and if they don’t appear to respond, follow the RSPCA’s first aid guidance for dogs with heat stroke.

Just like people, some dogs cope better with the heat than others. If your dog is a brachycephalic (flat faced) breed such as a pug or bull dog, or has a heart problem or respiratory disorder then they are at greater risk of heat stroke. Likewise, if you dog has a thick coat then they will find it harder to regulate their temperature too. There is no need to dress a dog in any sort of garment during hot weather but if your dog has got a thin coat or pink skin then you may want to apply a little sun cream to any places that are at risk of burning. There are now plenty of sunscreen products available online that are designed specifically for dogs.

If your dog is very unfit or overweight they will find it harder to cool down too. If they are unwell or have a cough, seek veterinary advice and avoid walking in the heat as they might find it more difficult to pant.

The RSPCA are keen for people to Share the #DogsDieOnHotWalks campaign and raise awareness of the dangers. You can find out more about it, along with some useful links to helping your dog through the heatwave on their campaign page.

Main photo by Justin Veenema on Unsplash

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