It doesn’t happen often, so when the sun shines and temperatures soar in the UK we can’t wait to catch some rays – but our furry best mates don’t always feel the same way.
While most dogs can tolerate warmer weather with plenty of drinking water and shade, some are more prone to heat stroke which can be life-threatening.
Very old or young dogs, dogs with thick coats, and dogs with certain medical conditions are more at risk of overheating.
Our flat-faced (or brachycephalic) friends like bulldogs, pugs, and Boston Terriers also have a harder time regulating their temperatures because of their shorter nasal passages.
Top ways to keep your dog cool in hot weather
If it’s blisteringly hot, it’s safer to just keep your doggies out of the heat altogether and park them in front of a fan inside. Sounds pretty nice, actually.
You can also try these tips to keep your canine cool at home or in the garden:
- Keep them hydrated – make sure they have a continuous supply of clean, cool water
- Give them a towel soaked in cold water to lie on
- Offer them an ice pack to nuzzle or freeze a hot water bottle or plastic bottle full of water – just make sure they don’t try to eat it
- Fill a paddling pool up with cool water for them to splash or lounge around in
- Put the sprinkler on
- Create a cool shaded area by stringing up tarpaulin or sheets
- Make some dog-friendly frozen treats like bone-broth lollies (there are loads of recipes for this kind of thing online)
Keep their water supply topped up & close by
Oh, we already mentioned drinking water? Good, it’s worth repeating.
If you don’t think your pooch is drinking enough, you can encourage them to drink more by:
- Adding ice cubes to their water bowl or giving them an ice cube to nibble on
- Adding a splash of chicken broth or bits of their favourite fruit to their water
Keep them hydrated on the go by taking a collapsible water dish on walkies.
“They make sun cream for dogs?!”
Just like us humans, dogs can get sunburnt too! That’s why it’s a good idea to apply some dog-friendly sun protection (sold in most pet shops) before venturing outside.
Dogs with light-coloured or thin coats are more at risk of getting burnt.
Those boopable snoots are particularly vulnerable since they’re not covered with fur, and you may need to apply it to their ears, belly, and any other exposed skin as well, depending on their coat.
Don’t shave your dog
Giving your buddy a good brush will get rid of all the hairs they’ve shed and help them to stay cool, but no matter how hot it gets, shaving your dog is not a good idea.
Your dog’s coat helps them regulate their body temperature (just like the insulation in your house) so shaving it off affects their ability to insulate against heat.
Dogs with heavy coats might enjoy a shorter summer cut to let some excess heat escape, but leave this to a professional groomer who won’t disrupt your dog’s natural cooling system. And this way you won’t have to pretend your 3-year-old got hold of the scissors.
If you’re unsure if your dog would benefit from a new ‘do, ask an experienced groomer for their advice.
Things to look out for when exercising
Plan your walkies
Avoid exercising in the heat of the day – early morning or late evening playtimes, exercise, and walks are best.
Hide some frozen treats around the house or give them a puzzle toy to keep them stimulated
during the day.
Protect your dogs paws from hot surfaces
Your dog’s paw pads are tough but hot surfaces can still burn them – and it can be really painful and may require medical attention. Ouch.
Avoid walking on hot pavement, tarmac or asphalt, and aim for dirt or grass paths instead.
Remember, if the ground is too hot for your own hand, it’s probably too hot for your dog’s feet.
Be careful around open water
If you’re cooling off with your pooch in the sea, at a lake or in a pool, don’t leave them unsupervised – swimming’s hard work!
Not all dogs are natural swimmers – some are terrible at it – so don’t force them to do anything they don’t want to. If they’re happy to dip their feet in and leave it at that, well, that’s just great.
It’s a nice idea to buy a doggy life jacket if your dog isn’t the most confident swimmer, but remember to watch out for submerged rocks and strong currents as well.
Symptoms of heat stroke in dogs
Here comes the scary part.
Heat stroke develops when a dog can’t reduce their body temperature by panting. It’s unfortunately surprisingly common, can cause brain damage, and is fatal in 50% of cases.
Signs of heatstroke include:
- Heavy panting and rapid breathing
- Raised temperature (between 38.3 and 39.2° Celsius is normal)
- Seems dazed, lethargic, drowsy or has glazed eyes
- Lacks coordination or seems disoriented
- A rapid pulse
- Excessive salivation and thickened saliva
- Sticky gums
- Muscle tremors
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
- Loss of consciousness
How to treat heat stroke in dogs
For the best chance of survival, you need to gradually lower your dog’s body temperature using the methods listed below, and take them to the nearest vet immediately.
- Move the dog to a shaded and cool area
- Avoid cooling them down too rapidly to avoid shock – this can also be fatal
- If possible, wrap your dog in cool – not cold – wet towels, targeting the underarm, belly, groin areas where there’s less fur
- If you don’t have towels, pour cool water over the dog until their breathing settles down, but not too much that they start shivering
- Place them in the breeze of a fan
- Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water
Your vet may give them IV fluids if dehydration is a concern.
Never leave dogs in cars
Never leave your dog in the car (or small, enclosed spaces) if it’s warm outside. Even if the windows are left open or you’re parked in the shade, temperatures can soar in no time.
According to the RSPCA when it is 22°C outside it can reach 47°C in a car within an hour!
If you see a dog in distress in a hot car, dial 999.
Evade fleas & ticks this summer
Those pesky parasites love warmer weather – it provides the perfect environmental conditions for their eggs to start hatchin’ all over the joint. Luckily, Itch’s flea treatment kills fleas and ticks so your favourite furball can frolic flea-and-tick-free.
Make life easier for yourself (and your magnificent doggo) and order a flea subscription. You’ll get the right dose at the right time, personalised for your pet and delivered straight through your letterbox!