Dogs in Hot Weather – Don’t Do It!

16 Jul 2022

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and, actually, that sounds quite tempting), you’ll know we’re in for some extreme heat over the next few days. Those who remember the summer of ’76 might wonder what the fuss is about. Let’s face it, though – that wasn’t pleasant. Plus, we’re far more health aware these days and have learnt more about the damage the sun can cause.

Aside from the usual warnings – stay hydrated, avoid the sunshine from probably 11 am to 3 pm, apply a good SPF50, and wear loose clothing made from natural fibres – it’s vital to keep an eye on elderly or vulnerable people and to take special care of dogs and other pets. Dogs can really suffer in hot weather.

Dogs Die in Hot Weather

Most responsible dog owners know that dogs die in hot cars. Now, the RSPCA has launched a Dogs Die on Hot Walks Campaign. If you want to take your dogs for a walk on a hot day, perhaps try it yourself first. Walk on that hot pavement in bare feet and wear a fur coat. Does it still feel like a good idea? Maybe you love tropical weather. Perhaps you’re really going to enjoy this mini heatwave. Your dog will not. Refer again to the fur coat! And don’t pay any attention to those who argue that dogs in hot countries are ok. That’s evolution and conditioning for you – they’re accustomed and acclimatised to it. Even then, dogs will always seek shade and need water.

If you feel you can cope with a run, that’s your decision. But please, PLEASE don’t inflict that on your dog. Your dog won’t say no; he’ll do his best to keep up because he wants to please you. Don’t let that loyalty cost him his life. The best treatment for canine heatstroke is prevention – just don’t let it happen. Don’t be selfish – your dog isn’t.

Dogs are Cool – Keep Them That Way

Keep your dog cool even at home. Cooling mats may be helpful, or simply mist sprays. It shouldn’t need saying – but every year, dogs die in hot cars – never EVER leave your dog in the car. Not with the windows open, not ‘just for five minutes.’ It’s simply not worth the risk. Dogs don’t just die in hot cars; they die a horrible, slow death akin to being cooked alive.

A Few Helpful Dos and Don’ts for Hot Weather:

  • Provide fresh, cool water around the house and outside.
  • If you treat your dog to a paddling pool, keep it in the shade.
  • Put ice in their water, and let them play with ice cubes or freeze toys and treats.
  • Wet towels are an accessible alternative to cooling mats.
  • If you must walk them, do so very early or very late. Keep it short, and DON’T throw for them.

Some dogs are more at risk than others, but temperatures above 30 degrees aren’t good for any dogs. Even upwards of 20 degrees requires care with big, heavy-coated dogs and especially brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds such as the popular French bulldogs and pugs. Some breeds are known for a predisposition to overheating. Due to their constant on-the-go nature, border collies are prone to ‘collie collapse’ even in perfectly pleasant weather. Others, such as Golden Retrievers and Springer Spaniels, can overheat easily. Those carrying excess weight or with heart conditions can also be particularly susceptible.

What is Canine Heatstroke?

Ask ANY vet, and they’ll tell you that heatstroke is always a serious condition. It occurs when a dog’s body simply can’t cool itself – dogs don’t sweat, they can only pant to try and regulate their temperature. Early indications a dog is struggling with hot weather and may suffer from overheating include:

  • Heavier panting than usual
  • Distress, seeming upset, inability to settle
  • Weakness, perhaps appearing on the verge of collapse
  • Hypersalivation (excess drooling)
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Bulging eyes and apparent panic

Don’t Let Overheating Become Heatstroke

Prevention is ALWAYS better than hoping for a cure, so keep your dogs cool and don’t take chances. If they display any symptoms, move them into the shade, dampen their coat and paws with cool water (never freezing cold, and avoid using the hosepipe as that can overexcite many dogs). Offer regular, small amounts of cool water to drink. If left untreated, early warning signs of heatstroke can rapidly progress to severe symptoms, such as:

  • Vivid red gums
  • Confusion and uncoordination
  • Collapse
  • Losing consciousness
  • Nasal or oral bleeding
  • Tremors or even convulsions

If your pet reaches this stage, it’s a medical emergency – phone your vet immediately.

It’s Not Just the Dogs

Dogs seem to have the toughest time in the heat, as they’re entirely dependent on us. However, other pets can be at risk too.

  • Avoid exercising or transporting horses, and ensure they have shade and water.
  • Cats do their own thing but ensure a plentiful supply of fresh water and access to shade.
  • Keep small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs out of the sun with, you’ve guessed it, plenty of fresh water.
  • Shade pond fish and move fish tanks out of sunlight
  • Consider leaving water in the shade for wildlife

Sure, it’s going to be hot. Very hot, but with care and common sense, we’ll be fine. However, dogs and other animals rely on us to ensure they’re fine. It doesn’t take much, so please don’t let your pet become a statistic and next Summer’s dire warning. Save the walks for cooler weather, and you might just save a life.

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