Unlike us, dogs do not sweat through their skin. Instead, they regulate their body temperature through their paws and by panting, and sometimes they need a little help from us to keep cool in the summer.
Read on to find out what the signs of heatstroke are, and how to keep your dog cool in the summer.
Know the signs of heatstroke and what to do
It’s important to know the signs of heatstroke and what to do if your dog shows signs of having it.
Heatstroke happens when your dog is too warm and cannot handle the temperature. A dog’s normal body temperature is between 38.3C – 39.16C (or 101 F – 102.5 F). If your dog’s temperature is 39.4C (or 103C) it is considered a fever, and a temperature of 41C (106 F) can cause serious damage.
Heatstroke can cause serious damage, or even death, quickly, so you need to act fast if your dog if displaying any of the following symptoms:
- Excessive panting – you know your dog, and how much panting is normal for him or her
- Dark red gums
- Unable to get up
- Collapse / loss of consciousness
- Thick drool
If you suspect your dog may be suffering from heatstroke, take your dog out of the heat as soon as possible and cool your dog. You can cool your dog by placing cool wet towels or cloths on his / her head and footpads.
Do not use ice or cover your dog in a towel as both of these things can actually prevent your dog from cooling.
Make sure your dog has access to water, and call your vets immediately. Even if your dog appears to have recovered and cooled down, you should still visit your vet to ensure there was no damage.
Now you know what the signs of heatstroke are, here are a 13 tips for keeping your dog cool in the summer.
Ensure your dog has access to cool, fresh water
Dogs can get through bowls of water quickly in the summer, so keep checking the bowl and refilling it when necessary.
If you are going out and are worried about your dog running out of water, you can get water bowls with water dispensers.
Never leave your dog in the car
Even if you’re going to be away from the car for a few minutes, never leave your dog in the car. The temperature in a car can rocket in a matter of moments, and leaving the window slightly open is not enough to keep your dog cool.
If you know you need to go somewhere and will have to leave your dog in the car, even if it will be for “just a few minutes”, leave your dog at home.
In the UK is it not illegal to leave your dog in the car, but if your dog suffers or dies as a result of being left in the car, you can be prosecuted under animal welfare laws. In certain US states it is illegal to leave an animal in the car.
If you spot a dog left in a car, call the Police. If you are at a shop, notify someone that a dog has been left in a car and ask them to make an announcement.
The RSPCA offer advice on breaking into a car if you spot a distressed dog, and say that you must;
- Have proper justification – such as the dog is distressed and the Police or RSPCA will not be able to attend fast enough
- You tell the Police what you are going to do, and explain why
- You have images / footage of the dog in distress
- They also recommend that you have the names and numbers of witnesses who can corroborate your story
Failure to do this could result in you being charged for criminal damage, despite your best intentions.
Walk when it’s cooler and keep walks shorter
Your dog still needs to be exercised, but there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of heatstroke.
Walk early in the morning or later on in the day, and avoid walking between 11am and 3pm. If possible walk in the shade.
When it’s warm, you should also keep walks shorter. This is especially important if your dog is brachycephalic (has a short snout) as the warm weather can be harder on them.
If you do walk during the heat of the day, check your dog’s paws after walking on tarmac as hot tarmac can damage their paw pads. To protect against this, you can buy boots or creams.
Let your dog have a splash
A fun way of keeping your dog cool is allowing him or her to go for a swim or a paddle.
Be mindful of where you allow your dog to go for a swim or a paddle.
- Make sure it is not a fast-flowing stretch of water
- Make sure you can see the bottom, and you know how deep it is
You could also consider getting a plastic child’s paddling pool or sandpit and filling it with water, to let your dog have a splash or lie down in it.
Cool jackets are another way of keeping your dog cool in the warm weather, and could be especially useful when taking your dog for a walk.
Take care when measuring your dog to make sure you buy a jacket which fits correctly and does not rub, as this can be painful and lead to knots in their fur.
Time for a trim
Talking of fur, if your dog has a long coat, the summer is the perfect opportunity for a trim and a trip to the groomers.
Doggy sun cream
You may not have ever considered it before but, like us, dogs need sun protection too.
If your dog has light fur and skin, you should apply sunscreen. Regardless of the colour of your dog’s fur or skin, you should be applying sunscreen to exposed skin, such as their stomachs.
To find out more about doggy sunscreen, visit Pets4Homes.
Keep your dog’s weight in check
It’s important to make sure your dog is at his or her correct weight all year round, but an overweight dog may find the heat harder to deal with.
Make sure you are feeding your dog the correct amount and are giving him or her the right amount of exercise. If your dog is struggling to shift weight when being fed and exercised correctly, speak to your vet.
Travelling with your dog
If you have to travel with your dog in the car, there are a few things you can to do keep your furry friend as cool as possible.
Open windows and ensure your dog has a good supply of fresh air
Keep your windows open, or your air conditioning on to help keep your dog cool. It’s worth literally putting yourself in your dog’s position to find out how much fresh air they will receive and what is the best way of helping them get a good flow of fresh air.
You can get adjustable window grilles to stop your dog putting his / her head out the window.
Use sunshades on windows
You can get sunshades to put on the windows of your car, or sunshade blankets to put over your dog’s crate, to help keep the car cool.
Park in the shade
If possible, park up in the shade when you stop. While you’ll be taking your dog with you, you and your dog will come back to a cooler car which will make both of you feel much happier.
Make sure your dog has access to water
Using a travel bowl to minimise spillage, make sure your dog has access to cool and fresh water.
Don’t travel during the heat of the day
This isn’t always possible, but if you can, avoid travelling during the middle of the day when the sun it at its strongest.
Taking your dog on holiday this summer? Read our 7 tips for getting your dog used to car travel.