While enjoying the sun, it’s important to be aware of the potential issues hot weather can cause for your dog, and how to avoid them. We want to highlight the risk of heatstroke and how it can be prevented, so you and your furry pal can enjoy the summer safely.
Heatstroke is a form of hyperthermia, which occurs when the body’s natural cooling functions fail to reduce body temperature, potentially causing fatal illness. All animals (including humans) are susceptible to heatstroke.
Why are dogs at risk?
Since dogs do not sweat, they rely on panting and the release of heat from their paw pads and noses. When a dog cannot lose excess heat, its body temperature rises, which can cause vital organs to shut down, potentially causing irreversible damage.
Some dogs are at higher risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. This includes very young, old, ill or overweight dogs, those with thicker coats, and brachycephalic breeds – such as bulldogs, boxers and pugs.
Although dogs can recover from heatstroke, they can be left with lifelong medical conditions that require regular treatment, so it is best to avoid the problem altogether.
Heatstroke warning signs
On a hot day, keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
- Heavy panting/shortness of breath
- Excessive drooling
- Eyes glazed over
- Gum or tongue colour (bright or dark red)
- Lack of energy/lethargy
- Increased heart rate
- Disorientation: dizzy/weak
- Lack of coordination
- Excessive thirst
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
- Loss of consciousness
If you think your dog is suffering from heatstroke, you should seek veterinary care immediately!
How to treat heatstroke
Until your dog is seen by a vet, you should try to gradually reduce their body temperature:
- Move them somewhere shaded and cool, preferably with air conditioning or a fan
- Lay them on a cooling surface: cool mat, wet towel, cool metal table
- Provide a constant supply of cool water, but do not force them to drink
- Gently pour cool water over them
- They may like to lick an ice cube, but do not force it on them
- If using wet towels, make sure you replenish them regularly with cool water
- Do NOT put them directly into cold water, and do NOT use ice or very cold water, as this could result in shock
Even if you believe the heatstroke has passed, there may be unseen medical issues, which a vet will check for.
Keeping your dog cool and hydrated
To reduce the chance of heatstroke, there are a number of actions you can take to keep your pup cool.
- Keep cool water available for them to drink at all times
- Make sure there’s shaded areas for them to keep out of direct sunlight
- Set up a paddling pool of cool water in the shade
- Put the sprinklers on
- Use damp towels/cool mats for them to lie on (or fill a hot water bottle with cold water)
- Trimming their coat, but remember that their hair also protects them from sunburn
- Very active or excitable dogs may need encouragement to take regular breaks in hot weather
It is essential to provide clean drinking water for your dog, especially in summer. Below are recommendations to help encourage your dog to stay hydrated:
Make sure water is accessible – Your dog may need to be reminded to drink water, so it could help to place bowls in multiple places around the house. Always make sure you carry water and a bowl with you when going out.
Water should be fresh and clean – Your dog may not like to drink chlorinated tap water, so it is a good idea to supply filtered or bottled water. Make sure to wash bowls and bottles long before they turn green or slimy, as this could cause issues for your dog and put them off the water.
Add water to their food – Wet food supplies your dog with more water than dry food. You can also add a little water to dry food, but do not overdo it or they may be put off. This may also help teach them to drink water when they eat.
Flavour the water – Adding a small amount of low-salt chicken or beef broth to their water is a great incentive to drink. You can also use water from tinned tuna. In hot weather, you could make ice cubes out of these flavouring options and add them to your dog’s bowl. Another option is providing Oralade.
At StreetVet, we utilise various amazing products to help keep dogs cool and hydrated in the hot weather. We give these to dog owners, so they can reduce the potential risk of heatstroke and heat exhaustion. If you need these for your own dog, they can be purchased from most pet shops or online.
(Select the photos below for more information)
Cool mats are ideal for hot weather! They are made using liquid that absorbs heat from your dog’s body when they sit or lay down. Generally, the mats do not need to be chilled, as the liquid “recharges” when it is not being used. This means you can take a cool mat out with you without it running out of cooling power.
Designed to rehydrate your pet, the Oralade GI Support formula is made with purified water, natural chicken flavour and essential ingredients that promote health and hydration. If your animal has trouble drinking water, Oralade is also made to be highly palatable to help your pet drink if feeling nauseous. Oralade has recently supplied our teams with their formula.
We give these bowls to dog owners so they can supply water for their dogs. These collapsible bowls are easy to clean and light, making them perfect to carry with you when out in hot weather. We also give out water bottles that have a small bowl attached, for dogs to drink from.
Walks and activities
As much as their puppy-dog eyes are pleading with you to play, it may be best to avoid excessive exercise, as this can easily overheat your dog on a hot day.
In hot weather, mornings and evenings are the best times to exercise your dog because they avoid the warmest and sunniest times of the day. Make sure you can supply regular shade and water, and remember that your dog’s paw pads are sensitive to hot surfaces like tarmac and sand.
A great hot-weather walk would be shady woodland, especially if there’s a stream for your dog to paddle in and keep cool. There are also games you can play that require less running and can be done indoors, such as hide and seek.
Dogs in cars
Avoid leaving your dog in a car on a sunny day. It can be fatal, even if left in the shade with windows open. If a dog becomes distressed and uncomfortable while alone in the car, this can also increase the risk of heatstroke.
On a sunny day at around 20 degrees Celsius, the inside of a car can reach over 40 degrees after half an hour, and over 70 degrees if left longer under sunlight.
If you see a dog in a hot car, it is recommended that you call 999.
Suncream for dogs
Dogs can be burnt by the sun, especially if they have a light-coloured coat or short/thin hair. There are suncreams created specifically for dogs, which should be available at most pet shops or online.
Do not use your own (human) suncream on your dog. These usually contain ingredients that are toxic for dogs when ingested, such as zinc oxide and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA). If in doubt about your dog needing suncream or which one to use, speak to your vet.
Being well prepared is the best way to keep your dog safe in hot weather. Now you have the knowledge to plan your summer day trips, you can reduce the potential danger to your dog and enjoy their company to the fullest.
Remember that it is always best to seek veterinary care and advice when you suspect that your dog is suffering from heatstroke. These guidelines are aimed at preventing illness, and although they give details on how to care for your dog, this should only be used in the case that your vet is not available to administer the proper care right away.