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  • Writer's pictureMaria

Too hot to trot?

Updated: Jun 21, 2020

When the weather gets warmer we need to be mindful of the heat and our dogs.

Dogs can develop heat stroke very quickly and if not treated promptly it can be fatal.

Dogs don’t sweat like us to regulate their temperature. They have some sweat glands in their paws and in their ear canals (weird!😂) but these play a minor part in regulating their temperature.

Dogs regulate their temperature by panting. They draw air in through their nose and the moisture there captures the heat generated in the body which is exhaled through the mouth.

The hotter your dog gets, the shallower and faster they will pant as they are trying to release more heat from their body.

Some dogs are more prone to developing heat stroke - those with thick or long coats, very young or very old dogs, those that are overweight, suffering medical conditions or those that have shorter noses - brachycephalic. Short nosed dogs have a far smaller surface area of ‘nose’ to gather moisture needed to cool the body - these dogs can overheat very, very quickly.

The first thing to say is that you DO NOT have to take your dog for a walk every day.

DON’T feel guilty about it - it is absolutely fine for them to not be walked every day and for some dogs this is actually beneficial. Walks can be quite stressful for some dogs and to have a break from this allows them to decompress and relax.

For some reason, as dog owners we feel the need or feel pressured to take our dogs out for a walk every day, but as long as your dog is able to toilet outside and is given sufficient mental and physical occupations within the home or garden, this is fine for the days that you don't walk them.

If you do take your dog out for a walk - here are a few things to be mindful of:

  1. Keep the walk short - a 15 minute sniffy amble to the end of the road can be 100 times more beneficial than a 45 minute march to the park and back again (whatever the weather)

  2. Take them out at the cooler times of day, early morning is best, before the air has had time to heat up but if it is cool in the evening then this is ok too

  3. It can be very hot even when the sun is not out - dogs can suffer heat stroke if the air is humid

  4. Test the pavement - if it feels too hot to hold the back of your hand or the sole of your foot on for 10 seconds then it is too hot for your dog’s paws (test a patch that is in the sun). Dogs can suffer terrible burns to their paw pads by walking on hot surfaces

  5. Always carry water

  6. Walk in the shade

  7. Put a 'cool jacket/vest' on the dog before you go out

At home you can keep dogs cool by laying damp towels on the floor or in the garden, have a 'cool mat', have the sprinkler on, have a paddling pool for them to stand in, have lots of shady areas, have lots of drinking water available and give them frozen stuffed Kongs or homemade frozen dog ices which are good for them to lick to keep cool.

How do you know if your dog has heat stroke?

Things to look out for that may indicate heat stroke are:

Excessive panting, increased or decreased heart rate, drooling, vomiting, lethargy, hot to touch, sweaty feet, shaking, wobbly on their feet, collapse, double incontinence or bright red gums/tongue - grey, blue or purple gums can also be an indicator - basically any change to your dog’s normal gum/tongue colour.

What to do:

  1. You need to cool the dog down, but not too fast - remove the heat source or move the dog into the shade for example

  2. Put them in front of a fan

  3. Put them on a hard floor (not concrete or anything warm), not a carpet. You can use a cool mat if you have one or lay some damp towels on the floor

  4. Stand them in water - don’t submerge them or dowse them

  5. Allow them to drink small amounts of cool or tepid (not cold) water if they are able

  6. Apply cool (not cold) towels or ice packs wrapped in towels to their underside, armpits and groin area and inside of thigh - there are large blood vessels running through these areas which will cool the blood more effectively

  7. Call your vet

What not to do:

  1. Don’t give them ice to eat or cold water to drink - always use cool or tepid. You don’t want to lower their temperature too quickly as this can be dangerous

  2. Don’t douse them in cold water - cold water will cause blood vessels to constrict which will slow down the cooling process and can also send them into shock

  3. Don’t cover them with anything

Dogs in cars

Hopefully it doesn’t need saying but never leave your dog in your car, even if it isn’t sunny and even if the window is open. Some cars do have air conditioning which can be run when the car is not in use but I would even advise against this - just don’t do it. What would happen if the aircon failed - it just isn’t worth the risk. Cars (tin cans) heat up very quickly and dogs can die very quickly from heat stroke in a car.

If you see a dog in a car that you think is in distress, you must call 999 or 101 for advice. Don’t just break the window as this is criminal damage.

Enjoy the lovely weather but be your dog's advocate and keep them safe. 💖

‘...At twelve noon the natives swoon and no further work is done,

But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.’ Noël Coward

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