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  • Sue

Hot weather and how to prevent heatstroke

Updated: Oct 31, 2021

A heatwave, like the one we’re currently experiencing in the UK, can be dangerous for our dogs. They’re not used to the level of heat and don’t have time to acclimatise. Here are some tips to ensure your dogs stay cool and avoid heatstroke.

Dog stood on beach with feet in the sea on sunny day

1. Change when and how you walk

Dogs are at risk of heatstroke in temperatures of 20°c or above if exercised too rigorously or if they have underlying health conditions. Temperatures of 24°c and above are uncomfortable for most dogs. Either walk your dog early in the morning (before 8am) or wait until the evening (after 8pm) when it’s more comfortable for them. Hot pavements can cause burns even on a breezy day – if you’re not sure if the pavement is too hot place the back of your hand on it for 7 seconds. If you struggle to keep it there, it’s too hot for your dog. Remember, a dog never died from not having a walk but sadly, dogs die every year from heatstroke so if in doubt, stay at home.

2. Keep your home as cool as possible

Keeping curtains, blinds and shutters closed will minimise the amount of heat that comes through windows. Use fans if you have them and leave windows open on the side of the building that is not in full sun to allow cool air to circulate.

3. Cooling products

Cool mats, cooling collars or cooling coats are all readily available online. If you don’t have any of these, you can simply lay out wet, cold towels for them to lie on. Ruff and Tumble drying coats can also be used damp for a period of 10 minutes to cool down core body temperature. Just remember to refresh towels and coats regularly with cold water to prevent them warming up.

4. Hydration

Provide lots of fresh, clean water both in the house and the garden. Remember to take some out with you on walks along with a travel water bowl.

5. Get them wet

Set up a sprinkler or a shallow pool in the garden, ideally in the shade. You can encourage them in with a toy if they are a bit reluctant but remember to keep physical exercise to a minimum if you are out in the hottest part of the day.

6. Cars

At 40°c a dog can no longer regulate their own body temperature and heatstroke will occur. On a day with temperatures of 23°c, the temperature inside your car will be 43°c after just 30 minutes. It only takes 10 minutes for your car to hit 43°c if the temperature outside is 32°c. Dogs die in hot cars – leave them at home.

7. Heatstroke – signs and prevention

Dogs regulate their temperature by sweating through their paws, noses and by panting which means they are much less efficient at cooling themselves down than we are. Heatstroke happens when they’re not able to regulate their internal body temperature. Breeds with thick fur, short noses and pre-existing medical conditions are at a higher risk of heatstroke. However, it’s important to remember that any dog can develop heatstroke and should be monitored carefully during hot weather.

The symptoms to watch out for include:

  • excessive panting

  • excessive thirst

  • barking or whining

  • very red gums

  • drooling more than usual

  • rapid heart rate

  • lethargy

  • vomiting or diarrhoea

  • staggering, weakness or collapsing.

If you spot any of these signs, emergency treatment by a vet will be required. Until you get to the vet you can help to lower their internal temperature by:

  • Taking them out of the heat and into a cool environment.

  • Using lukewarm water to cool them down - do not use very cold water or ice.

  • Soak towels in water and lay them over your dog. If driving to the vet, open the windows to allow a cool breeze.

  • Let your dog have access to water but don’t force them to drink.

Even if they appear to have cooled down, your dog will still need to be checked by a vet to monitor for any complications or signs of shock.

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