All opinions expressed in this blog are that of the author alone. Sources of the opinions and advice presented can be found at the bottom of the post where relevant. All other information is a discussion on the particular topic and should not be taken to replace advice from a veterinarian or nutritionist.
All the ice and snow we had this winter seems like years ago now that we are in the throes of one of the hottest English summers for decades. But while we might be enjoying the balmy days and beach visits, this weather can be really challenging for our furry companions.
As you have undoubtedly seen, there is a lot of information about the dangers of heat stroke in dogs. Often this conflicting information leads to more confusion from owners. In this post I will break down some of the most common mistakes, and questions I receive to keep your pooch happy this summer.
Aren’t dogs just like us when it’s hot?
Quick answer – no! Your dog is much less equipped to deal with heat than you. While we have sweat glands all over our body, your dog predominantly sweats through their paws and relies heavily on panting to keep cool. Pair that with a big fluffy jumper and it can soon become too much.
Do some dogs struggle more than others?
All dogs can be very uncomfortable in the heat, but just like humans, some dogs are better than others at coping with it.
If your dog is a large breed, is hairy or is a golden oldie you may need to keep a closer eye on them. Brachycephalic breeds (those with squashy faces) are also prone to have problems in the heat. Because their muzzles are not elongated, they may have difficulty breathing which can be compounded by hot weather, and cause difficulty panting. Your dog also may have trouble breathing if they are overweight, please seek advice from your veterinarian if you suspect your pooch is carrying a few extra pounds!
Your dog may not fit into any of these categories, but even your healthy weight, long-nosed, short-haired dog can be affected by the weather so be sure to pay attention to the signs your dog is giving you. I will touch on these signs in more detail later.
Is heatstroke really that common?
You could be forgiven for thinking that the hype around heatstoke in dogs has been caused by individual bad cases being exaggerated by the media. If you’re one of the lucky ones, or should I say careful ones, your dog may never be in a position where they get heatstroke, but with a 50% mortality rate for dogs with it, do you want to take the chance with your furry friend?
What are the signs my dog is overheating?
As promised here are a few things to look out for:
● Lethargic behaviour. For example, laying down mid-walk if this uncommon for your dog
● Heavy panting and drooling
● Difficulty standing up or moving about
● Bright red mucous membranes (e.g. gums)
Keep an eye out for less obvious signs as well, such as not wanting to settle and laboured breathing for early signs that your dog is too hot.
How can I keep my dog cool?
● Keep walks to a slow pace
● Go for walks early in the mornings or later in the evening.
● Do the pavement test by holding your hand on the pavement – if you can’t hold it there for 5 seconds it’s too hot to walk your dog!
● Use a lead or long-line when walking if your dog loves a good sprint. This is something that could cause your dog to overheat.
● Short but frequent walks are better in hot weather
● Carry a water bottle on your walks with you
● Stay hydrated! Have plenty of topped-up water bowls available for your dog and if they don’t drink much in general, try adding a small splash of goats’ milk as this can encourage drinking.
● Get a paddling pool – choose a hard-bottomed version to avoid leaks and let your dog splash around. Some dogs will simply not like water so please don’t dunk, dip or otherwise force your pet into water as this will stress them out and make the problem worse.
Something to consider …
While it is less common in dogs than humans, the UV rays of the sun can be damaging to our furry friends’ skin and can even lead to skin cancer. If you have a very pale or even bald breed of dog, take care that they are not getting sun-burnt and keep an eye out for lumps or sores especially around the edges of the ears or nose. It is always worth doing your ‘vet-check’ with your dog every day to make sure they are happy and healthy.
I know this probably seems like general knowledge at this point, but please please do not leave your dog in your car in this heat, not even for a minute! There are still way too many fatalities happening because people don’t consider the dangers.
So … with the correct care and by paying attention to what our dogs need in this heatwave, there is no reason why we can’t all enjoy this fabulous summer sunshine – two and four legs alike!
How are you keeping your dog cool? We’d love to hear from you or see a picture! Please get in touch!
(1) Blue Cross
(3) Davies Veterinary Specialists
(4) Park, 1994 (Dogs Naturally)