Keep your dog safe in the sun
Does anybody else have a dog who loves nothing better than lounging in the sunshine? Who refuses to seek shade when they could be working on their tan? When it comes to heat, all too often our pups don’t know what’s good for them. That means it’s our job as pawrents to know when to step in!
With temperatures forecast to rise over 30 degrees centigrade in some parts of the UK next week, we are sharing THE PACK Top Tips for keeping our furry friends safe during these dog days of summer.
Why is hot weather a problem for our dogs?
A dog’s normal body temperature is 38.5 degrees centigrade, higher than ours, and, unlike us, he or she can’t shed a layer when the sun comes out. Our dogs are also unable to sweat, which is why they pant and release heat through their paws and nose - tiny areas compared with the furless human body! This means dogs are less efficient at cooling down. This is worrying because it only takes an increase in body temperature of two degrees for a dog to suffer heatstroke.
Heatstroke is scary. Once a dog’s body temperature reaches 43 degrees, their organs begin to fail and, if action isn’t taken right away, they can actually die within just 15 minutes. We’re not just talking about a few cases: only half of dogs diagnosed with heatstroke survive. That’s enough to give us all paws for thought. So how can we prevent our pups from overheating?
💡 THE PACK's Top Tip: Check out this heat stroke chart to see when it is safe for walkies.
THE PACK’S tips for harm-free hot days
If you want to let your dog enjoy some rays outside of the hottest part of the day (before 11am and after 3pm), make sure they have the option to move into a cooler spot as well as plenty of water to hand (or paw!) Provide shady areas in your garden with umbrellas or windbreaks, and give your dog easy access to air-conditioned indoor space. You can even use pet-safe sun cream on exposed skin like the tips of their ears and nose (ask your vet for a recommended brand). Most importantly, keep a close eye on them. If your pup seems to be panting or breathing heavily, encourage them into the shade quickly with a tasty plant-based treat. We love to freeze our plant-based wet food into summer Pawsicles!
When the temperature rises about 20 degrees, walkies should be kept short and slow. Above 23 degrees and your dog’s going to find any sort of walking very uncomfortable. Imagine somebody dragging you out for a walk in that heat if you were wearing a fur coat! When the forecast shows temperatures soaring, vets advise walking your dog early in the morning or late in the evening, before 8am or after 8pm. Also, pay attention to the surface on which you’re walking: your pup might be sporting a winter coat, but he or she isn’t wearing shoes! The Dog’s Trust advise doing the five second tarmac test: hold your hand down on the road for five seconds to test the temperature. If it’s too hot for you, it’s going to burn your dog’s paws.
Finally, we don’t need to tell you twice: never leave your dog in a car, hot room or enclosed sunny space from which they can’t escape. Winding down the window or parking in the shade doesn’t make it okay: the RSPCA warn that when its 22 degrees outside, a car can reach 47 degrees within an hour.
Warning signs of heatstroke
According to VetsNow, there are numerous ways we can check if our hounds are overheating. First, check their face. Are their eyes glassy or fearful? Is their mouth open and drooling, with red or purple gums and tongue? Are they drooling excessively?
What about their body? Are their legs collapsing? Are they staggering? Does their skin feel hot to touch? Is their heart racing? Your dog might even experience seizures or vomiting. As we know, heatstroke isn’t something to be taken lightly.
💡 THE PACK's Top Tip: See the signs of heatstroke so you can take quick action.
What to do if you think your dog has got too hot
If your pup is becoming more of a Hot Dog than a Slush Puppie, make sure you’ve moved them somewhere nice and cool. If you notice any of the signs described above, call your vet or emergency clinic straight away.
Offer your dog some tepid water (iced or very cold water can be painful to drink) but not too much. Over-drinking or drinking too quickly can cause bloat, your dog's stomach dilating and expanding in a way that can build up pressure and lead to a rupture. You can also run cool water over your pup’s fur; again, don’t make it too cold; icy water can send your dog into shock. If you have a fan, direct it onto your pup.
Keeping your Brachycephalic (squashed-face) dog healthy in the heat
Those of us who care for ‘squashed-face’ breeds (like Pugs, Frenchies, Shih Tzus, King Charles Cavaliers or Bulldogs) need to be extra cautious: recent research from the Royal Veterinary College showed that English Bulldogs are 14 times more likely to suffer heat-related illness compared to Labrador Retrievers. This is because these breeds have narrower airways, like a tight maze, making it harder for them to lose heat by panting. Similarly, if a dog is overweight, he or she can find it harder to breath and overheat more quickly.
Keep all these furry friends out of the hot sun and, when temperature are 18 degrees and over, don’t even think about walking them during the day. If you do go for walkies in the cooler part of the morning or evening, use a harness that doesn’t risk choking and take plenty of water with you. At home, make sure your pups have constant access to water and a fan or air-conditioning, and consider buying a cooling mat for them to sit on.
💡 THE PACK's Top Tip: Make some yummy frozen treats to cool down your pooch. Here is a fantastic recipe by Ghost using our food as a frozen enrichment treat.
THE PACK’s motto during hot summer days? If in doubt, be safe not sorry. Keep your dog inside in the cool. A day or two playing indoor games, or doing some mentally stimulating training inside isn’t going to hurt your pup - but a hot walk actually might!