It’s a well-known fact that dogs struggle in the heat. This isn’t surprising, considering their furry coats and the fact that they can only sweat through their paws. Sadly, heatstroke in dogs can be fatal. So, considering heat stroke is so harmful, how can you keep your dog cool during the summer heat? Here are our top tips!
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Safety at home in the heat
Many dogs enjoy sunbathing, leaving it up to us to let them know when it’s time to cool off! Unfortunately, you can’t assume that your dog will avoid overheating themselves. Ensure they always have access to shade and consider keeping them inside during the hottest periods. Make sure they have plenty of cool water to drink, ideally in a few places so they have a choice.
You can buy pet cooling beds or mats for your dog to lie on, or you can make your own using icepacks wrapped in towels. The latter requires supervision, in case the towel falls off or your dog tries to chew the ice pack! A fan pointed at their bedding area can help too.
You can keep your dog cool, while also entertaining them, by making frozen treats to find around the house or garden. This could be a frozen stuffed Kong toy, or ice cubes made from puréed cooked chicken (you’ll need to add some water). You could also make a game with the sprinkler, or a paddling pool filled with cool water.
It’s a good idea to groom your dog more regularly in summer. Removing excess fur and keeping them free from matts will help them to keep cool. You could consider having their fur trimmed or clipped at a groomer’s, to keep it shorter.
Exercising in the heat
Remember, your dog won’t die from having no exercise for a few days, but they could well die from exercising in the heat! Never exercise your dog during peak sun or heat, which can often extend to most parts of the day. Consider taking them very early in the morning, late in the evening, or not at all on very hot days. If it’s too hot for a walk, you could always try some new games or training at home, to keep your dog entertained.
Plan your route! If you are going for a walk, make sure there is plenty of shade available and take it slowly. Take a portable water bowl with you, so that you can offer your dog several drinks along the way. It’s also important to avoid pavements and other surfaces which absorb heat. Always test the surface with the back of your hand first. Can you comfortably hold it there for an extended period? If not, then it’s not safe for your dog. Hot pavements can cause nasty burns and blisters on a dog’s pads.
Swimming is great exercise for dogs and can be beneficial for conditions such as arthritis. If your dog enjoys swimming, it can be a great way to cool off too! Only let your dog swim where you know it is safe to do so, since there can be hidden currents, which are extremely dangerous. Blue-green algae can make your dog very poorly too, so look for clean water spots to swim in.
Out and about
You should never leave your dog in a car in warm weather, for any amount of time, even with the windows down. The temperature in a parked car rises rapidly, causing a dog to become very unwell very quickly.
Always take plenty of cool water in an insulated flask and a portable water bowl. Make sure you regularly offer cool drinks and allow time for plenty of rest breaks on a journey.
What are the signs of heatstroke in dogs?
The early signs of heatstroke can be subtle, so be sure to keep a close eye on your dog during hot days. It’s important to know what to watch for, so the symptoms of heatstroke include:
- Unusual tiredness (lethargy)
- Wobbling when walking (ataxia)
- Excessive drooling
- Excessive panting
- A fast heart rate (tachycardia)
- Bright red gums
All dogs are susceptible, but some are at higher risk of heat stroke than others. Pay particular care if your dog is elderly, has an underlying medical condition, has a very thick coat, is brachycephalic (flat-faced) or is overweight.
What should I do if my dog has heatstroke?
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should move your dog to a cool area immediately. Offer them cool water to drink if they are able and pour cool water on their coat. Call your vet as an emergency straight away. Even if your dog seems to improve, they will need to be checked over by a vet as soon as possible.
So, now you know how to keep your dog safe this summer! Remember, if you have any concerns about your dog’s behaviour in the heat, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Contact a vet for advice straight away.