It’s July and the forecast for the week promises very hot weather. If you are sensible you will adapt your routine, stay out of the mid-day sun and wear appropriate light and loose clothing. But what about your loyal pet? Our own dog, West, is dressed inappropriately in a thick dark coloured coat yet, if he was allowed, he would still follow us into the surrounding countryside and jump into the car, however high the mercury rose.
Our pets depend upon us to make good judgments about their hot weather activities. Dogs in hot weather rely on panting and resting in a cool place to regulate their temperature. Unlike us, dogs can’t sweat to cool off, neither are they minded to ask us to perhaps forgo a walk and stay in the cool of the house instead.
Signs of overheating or heatstroke may go unnoticed in dogs in hot weather.
Look for signs of overheating before the symptoms develop into a serious health risk:
- Excessive or loud panting.
- Dark pink to red tongue lolling out of mouth.
- Dry, sticky mouth.
- Trying to lie down.
- Disorientation, stumbling.
- Slowing down and dragging on the lead.
- Frequent vomiting
How to help your dog avoid getting too hot.
I’m sorry if some of the points below seems obvious, but they are worth mentioning anyway.
NEVER NEVER leave a dog in a car or van on a warm day.
On a warm day the sun can heat a car to surprisingly excessive temperatures in a very short time – even with the windows down!
Your dog’s life is never worth the convenience of leaving them in the car for even a couple of minutes. It may feel relatively cool in the driver’s seat with the air-con on, but the temperature in the back of any car can become dangerously hot, even by the time you lock the doors. You could also get in trouble with the RSPCA and prosecuted by the police.
Know your dog.
Many breeds of dogs are more prone to suffer from heat exhaustion. These include flat-faced breeds like pugs and bulldogs, which have a harder time panting out their body heat, greyhounds, whippets and thick-furred black dogs. Take extra care with puppies, and older and overweight pets of all breeds. Avoid midday activities and limit their time in the hot sun and heat.
Be aware that dark and black dogs reflect less of the suns rays than a light coloured dog and consequently can suffer more in the sun.
Take plenty of water when out and about.
Always have full bowls of fresh water available around the house and garden.
Offer your dog plenty of water before, during and after any exercise. Take plenty of water on walks. If your dog appears sluggish, stop in a shady place to offer it water. Also, pour some on its tummy to help cool it down
Have a groomer clip your dog’s fur.
This is especially important for dogs with thick, long coats. Take care that your dog groomer does not shave the dog completely. Leaving skin exposed can increase the chances of sunburn.
Don’t feed your pet within an hour of exercise in the heat.
This is a general rule which should apply whatever the weather. This will reduce also the risk of bloat or other gastrointestinal issues particularly in deep chested dogs such as Great Danes and St Bernard’s.
Ensure your dog can find some shade when out in the garden.
Wild dogs typically find a shady tree or bush to dig a hole under and wait out the heat of the day and that is exactly what West does, we have lots of trees and shrubs providing cool shade, in the garden. If he prefers, West can choose to sprawl out on our cooling ceramic tiled kitchen floor.
Provide your dog somewhere it can get wet in the garden.
Set up a small shallow wading pool or a similar container of water for your dog to jump into and keep cool. We bought our border collie West a galvanised sheep trough, he uses it often to cool down after a run around, even in relatively cool weather. Dogs in hot weather may also like to run under a water sprinkler.
A word of warning, if your dog, like our own West, likes to attack a working hose don’t allow it to – always have a sprinkler attached as a narrow jet of water directed into the mouth can have dire consequences should it fill the lungs.
Many dog owners do not realise just how hot the pavement can get.
Keep to grassed areas, Dogs being dogs just get on with things even if their feet are hot and potentially burning. Blisters and burns are already present when start to limp or just give up and lie down. If your dog suffers from blistered feet take him or her to your vet.
To test whether the pavement is safe for your dog to walk on, lay the flat of your palm on the pavement. If you cannot hold your hand there for at least 15 seconds, do not take your dog out for that walk.
When your dog shows signs of overheating.
When a dog showing signs of being overheated, sponge down with, or pour, cool water on its tummy, under the ‘armpits’ and feet, as well as offering him or her water to drink. If your dog collapses or shows signs of severe overheating it should be taken immediately to your vet.