With the start of summer, we all want to get out and enjoy sunny long days, and who best to join you than your happy four-legged best friend! However, the heat brings its challenges too, and we can’t just change our dogs to summer clothes, they don’t sweat the same way we do, and looking for burns is challenging under all the fur, so what signs can we look for when checking if dogs are too hot?
Table of contents
Know the warning signs
When dog’s body temperature starts to rise, they try to control it and start displaying signs of mild overheating:
- Panting more than usual.
- Laying on cold surfaces.
- Looking for shadow.
- Refusing to walk or not responding to normal commands.
If this is not enough and their temperature continues to rise, dogs may start showing more severe signs of heatstroke:
- Dark red gums.
- Glazed eyes.
- Incoordination, confusion, and collapse.
These dogs are in imminent danger and need to be cooled down and seek veterinary attention.
How to prevent overheating?
Like with most situations, preventing is easier, less scary, and much more efficient than treating, and there are many things you can do to prevent your dog from overheating.
Avoid the worst of the heat
The first is to avoid walking your dog during the hottest hours of the day and prioritising walks in the early morning or evening.
This is especially true if your dog is at a higher risk of overheating. Dogs that are inefficient in controlling their body temperature and should never be exposed to high temperatures or over-exercised include brachycephalic or flat-faced breeds (such as Bulldogs, Boston terriers, Boxers, Pugs, and Shih-tzus), overweight dogs, dogs with long thick coats, and dogs with medical conditions with a compromised respiratory system.
If your dog is not on this list and you consider taking them with you on a day adventure outdoors, always provide them with fresh water, regular breaks, and periods of shadow. This will help them feel comfortable, enjoy their day as much as you, and prevent heatstroke.
If you exercise with your dog, train them progressively and increase activity levels slowly. Know your dog’s limits and learn to recognise their signs of fatigue. Always avoid pushing your dog’s limits, but this is especially important during hotter days.
Be careful with hot pavements, sidewalks, sand, and asphalt, as these can be very hot and burn your dog’s paws.
Help them cool down
If your dog has a long or thick coat, consider giving them a summer haircut. Contrary to urban myth, as long as the air temperature is lower than 38-39C (hint – that’s almost always the case in the UK!), clipping or trimming will help them stay cooler.
Make sure they always have plenty of water and consider chilled snacks such as frozen paste treats in a toy.
Never, under any circumstance, leave your dog unattended inside a car!
Even on mild summer days, with the windows open and in the shadow, cars can become extremely hot in a very short time and become dangerous places for a dog that is unable to get out.
If you see a dog trapped in a shut car, always call 999.
What to do
Pay attention to the signs of overheating mentioned above and, if you notice them, try to improve your dog’s temperature by giving them water, resting them in the shadow, wetting them down with cool (ideally not ice-cold) water, and using a fan if possible.
Call your vets to book an emergency appointment – and make sure the car is cool on the way there. Remember, even if it’s cold with the ventilation in the front, the boot may be many degrees warmer.