Vets warn dog owners about the perils of heatstroke

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Vets warn dog owners about the perils of heatstroke

The Blue Cross has recently raised concerns about the number of people walking their dogs during the hot weather, with advice on how to keep your pets cool when the mercury starts rising.   

As the weather finally starts to improve here in the UK, with highs of up to 28 degrees over the last couple of weeks, Alison Thomas, Senior Veterinary Surgeon at the Blue Cross hospital in Victoria, London issued a warning to dog owners about how to take care of their dogs during a heatwave. Lockdown saw a huge surge in the number of dog owners in the UK, with some owners not having owned a dog before, so they may not realise that dogs don’t deal with the heat in the same way that humans do.

Dog photo by Gayatri Malhotra on UnsplashDog photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

Hot dogs

Many dogs can struggle to cope with hot temperatures. They don’t sweat like humans do and they rely on panting to be able to release excess heat from their body. Depending on the breed of dog they may also have a very thick layer of fur which is the same as you going out in the sunshine in a winter coat!

It’s important to carry water as some breeds can be susceptible to heatstroke, and this is a great way to help your dog to cool down on the go. If possible, avoid taking your dog out during the hottest time of the day, from 11am to 3pm.

Alison Thomas told the Mirror:

"While we enjoy the sunshine and warm weather this week it is important to make sure our pets are kept safe. They can quickly overheat and sometimes this can be extremely dangerous and even fatal.

"Walk your dog at the cooler times of the day, either first thing in the morning or early evening and if your dog is one that needs a long walk to burn off excess energy, find other ways to stimulate them instead.

"A simple test to check if the tarmac is too hot to walk your dog is to take your own shoes off and stand on the path. If you are unable to keep your feet on the path for five seconds, then it is not safe to walk your dog."

Fair-skinned dogs are also more vulnerable in sunlight which can damage their skin and the Blue Cross advises putting a T-shirt over them and applying non-toxic dog sun block to any areas which are prone to burning.

Action pug photo by Bruce Galpin on UnsplashAction pug photo by Bruce Galpin on Unsplash

Flat-faced dog problems

Dogs with flat faces (known as brachycephalic dogs) are more prone to heatstroke, these breeds include:

  • French bulldogs
  • Pugs
  • Bulldogs
  • Boxers
  • Shih Tzus
  • Boston Terriers
  • Pekingese
  • Dogue de Bordeaux 

They have also hit the news recently as experts have suggested that these breeds are more prone to life-limiting conditions – and their popularity has fuelled criminal activity.

In 2000 227 French bulldog puppies were registered in the UK. In 2020 this soared to a record 39,266 – an increase of more than 17,000%. Registrations of English bulldogs were also at their highest since records began. And these are just the ones that are registered.

Frenchie on the beach photo by Terrance Raper on UnsplashFrenchie on the beach photo by Terrance Raper on Unsplash

According to Dr Dan O’Neill, a Senior Lecturer at the Royal Veterinary College, the rapid rise in popularity of these breeds has produced not only physical problems as they struggle to breathe – but also significant  welfare issues, driving an illegal trade whereby puppies are bred in poor conditions and could be imported from abroad. Many pups are subsequently abandoned once their owners realise that they can’t afford to meet the significant medical costs of treating any problems that have been bred into them to make them look more desirable.

Whilst O’Neill says that they are not trying to ban the breeds completely, they do recommend that you stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog. If you own a flat-faced breed make sure that you take extra care in hot weather and ensure that their needs are being met.

Got any tips for keeping your dog cool? Let us know in the comments section below.



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