Hot summer days are welcomed by most of us. Our pets can enjoy this weather too, but we must take extra care of them during this time. Dogs react to excessive external heat very differently to us humans. Heat stress in dogs is a serious issue and they can easily die from overheating. Dog owners should be aware of the symptoms of heat stroke, a preventable problem and know how to keep their dog cool.
Before going outside, check the temperature of the pavement. If it is too hot for your hand, it will be too hot for your dog’s paws. Walk on grass and stay off tarmac too. The sun is at its hottest between 11am and 3pm, so seek shade then. Vigorous muscle activity involved in exercise combined with radiation from the sun will rapidly increase your dog’s core body temperature. To avoid this risk, take walks in the coolest part of day, early morning and late evening. Carry water with you.
If you leave your dog at home, ensure the house is cool. Where appropriate, leave windows open, a fan on, close curtains.
Never leave your dog in a car on a hot day, even with an open window. This is the most likely place that your dog will suffer heat stroke. A limited air space and heat intensifying glass will easily make conditions difficult for him. If you are travelling with your dog on a hot day, use the air conditioning and provide plenty of water in a non-spill container. Take regular travel breaks to walk your dog in the shade.
Groom on a regular basis, keeping fur trimmed and free of tangles can help your dog keep cool. If your dog goes into the sea for a dip, rinse off any salt water and sand so that skin is not dried out and irritated.
Dogs don’t sweat to cool down, they pant. Panting involves warm moisture escaping from the swollen tongue and cooled blood returning to the body. That is why it is essential that cool drinking water is always available to your dog. Dogs most at risk of heat are pugs and bull dogs because they have smaller airways, making it harder to pant. Elderly, overweight and those suffering from breathing problems, dark furred and pale skinned dogs are also vulnerable.
A dog suffering from heatstroke will collapse, panting, in the middle of a walk. He will flop in exhaustion and refuse to move.
Treating heat stroke quickly is essential in saving his life. Cool your dog down without over-chilling. To do this, pour cool water over him, using a sponge to help absorption. Cover him with cold wet towels or packs from the freezer.
If you are near a shallow river or pond, submerge him carefully, holding his head above the water. A bath of cool water can be used if you are at home.
Don’t over chill your dog. Once he has stopped panting and starts moving around, stop the cooling process. Seek the advice of your vet. He can check the core body temperature and if necessary administer intravenous fluids. Heat stroke can cause serious damage to internal organs, sometimes this will not be apparent for about 24 hours after exposure.
By being aware of how your dog reacts to heat and how you can help him stay healthy, you can both enjoy the summer sunshine.