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Hot Weather

Dogs, like people can suffer in the hot weather. Understanding how your dog cools down and planning ahead can help stop dangerous situations from escalating and avoid potential disasters. Every year dogs tragically die in hot vehicles or need treating by a vet for the effects of sunburn or heatstroke. Enjoy the warmer weather but please don’t let your dog down this summer.

Unlike humans who sweat when we’re hot, dogs do not use sweating through their skin as their body cooling mechanism, instead a dog will regulate body temperate and cool down using the respiratory system - mainly by panting. 

When a dog is panting, the mouth is open and the tongue is hanging out. He is breathing air in through the nose and out through the mouth, passing air over the tongue where saliva and moisture on the tongue evaporates, the blood in the tongue is thereby cooled and circulated around the body. The dog’s heart and lungs will work harder as he breathes in and out quicker and pants faster to reduce body temperature via the process of evaporation.

Brachycephalic dogs have short noses so air being breathed in doesn’t cool as much before it reaches the lungs. Flat-faced, snub nosed dogs still rely on panting to cool down but they have to work a lot harder at it as they are not, by design, very efficient, these types of dogs can quickly become over heated and in trouble.

Dogs die in hot vehicles every year. Leaving windows open, or just 'popping into a shop' will not prevent the vehicle heating up and the dog inside become distressed. Even when the vehicle is moving, blazing sunshine streaming through un-shaded windows can result in dogs quickly become dangerously over-heated. 

Planning ahead wherever possible, travelling during the cooler parts of the day, organising sunshades for the windows, providing water and regular shady rest stops, and using a cooling mat, 12v fan,  available to plug into your vehicle cigarette lighter, or both, can all make summer journeys safer and more comfortable for your dog.

Whether at home, out for the day or on holiday remember that the sun moves throughout the day, and previously shady spots can become exposed. Ensure that your dog has access to well ventilated shady areas and plenty of fresh cool water at all times. Dogs are very often better suited to staying indoors in a cool ventilated area during the hottest part of the day.

People can become irritable when they get too hot, and dogs may also feel hot and bothered as well. A hot dog can understandably feel quite stressed out. Keep your dog cool, calm and relaxed during hot weather.

Black dogs will absorb more heat from the sun. Long haired dogs and dogs with double coats need to be kept well groomed to maintain a coat free of tangles and to remove any dead undercoat; this helps the air to circulate which allows the skin to breathe and helps your dog keep cooler. White dogs are particularly prone to sunburn due to a lack of pigmentation in their skin.

Like us, dog can become dehydrated due to a lack of fluid intake and loss of saliva when panting. Making sure your dog has constant access to plenty of fresh water will help prevent dehydration. Signs of dehydration in a dog include a dry mouth, gums and nose, reduced skin elasticity, reduced capillary refill and sunken eyes.

Tarmac surfaces, pavements and even beaches can get very hot! We don’t notice with our footwear on, but our dogs do and paws can get burnt. These surfaces can also take a while to cool back down again after a day of full sunshine.

Dogs can quickly become too hot and reach a point of where their body temperature is too high and they are unable to cool themselves down and keep their body temperature within a safe margin. Heatstroke can be caused by overexposure to sunlight and to hot and humid environments. Heatstroke is a medical emergency, it can be fatal and it can also cause damage to internal organs.

Signs of heatstroke in a dog include a raised body temperature, heavy and rapid panting, laboured breathing, weakness, wide eyes, red tongue, rapid pulse, disorientation, exhaustion, diarrhoea, vomiting and distress. A dog can also collapse and go into a coma.

A dog with a body temperature between 104 ºF to 106 ºF is suffering from moderate heatstroke; first aid and veterinary advice is needed straight away. If the dog’s body temperature is 106 ºF or over the dog has severe heatstroke; first aid and immediate veterinary attention is critical.

How to cool a dog down - First Aid:

The average temperature for a healthy dog is 101.5 ºF or 38.6 ºC.
A healthy dog’s temperature can vary from 100.5 °F to 102.5 °F (38 °C – 39.2 °C).

If a dog has overheated or is overheating and it is unable to bring down its own temperature through panting it is going to need your help. The dog’s body temperature must be cooled down safely.

  • Move the dog into the shade if it is out in the sun, ideally into a well ventilated (fresh air flow) area where it is cool.
  • Offer cool water but don’t force the dog to drink
  • Soak the dog in cool water. Freezing water will cause blood vessels to constrict so use cool water, not freezing cold water, and wet down your dog’s body all over making sure the water isn’t just running off the coat but is soaking right through to the skin. Turning a hose on a dog may frighten him, so try to quickly soak him instead.
  • Standing a dog in a paddling pool or shallow bath of cool water will cool him down, wet him all over, soaking the back of his neck will help cool down the blood going to his brain, but if he can’t stand let him lie and soak him through whilst he lays down.
  • If you are away from home with limited access to water, soak cold water on your dog’s belly, in his groin and round his neck, this will help cool the hot blood running through larger blood vessels. Get him out the sun and in the shade. Offer water to drink.
  • Short muzzled dogs may have a build up of foamy type phlegm in their throat-a short squirt of Jiff Lemon to the back of the throat may help cut through this, not nice, but if the dog can’t breathe this is an emergency.
  • If possible point an electric fan his way to aid cooling.
  • Stay calm and talk to your dog.
  • If you have access to the phone ring through to the vet immediately and seek advice on what to do next or send an adult for help.
  • Keep the dog soaked in cool water, in the shade with plenty of fresh air and check his rectal temperature every ten minutes if you can, write it down with the time taken and tell your vet.
  • Remember not to over cool your dog, you’re trying to bring his rectal temperature back down-stop cooling at 103°F (39.4°C) Check the temperature - you don’t want his body temperature dropping too low-hypothermia.
  • When travelling to the vets with a overheated dog, soak towels in cold water and lay or sit your dog on a cold towel. Do not wrap wet towels around or over your dog as these can act like a sauna and prevent the heat from escaping. Cool the vehicle down first before you get in it. Allow plenty of air to circulate inside the vehicle on the way to the vets - this aids evaporation. Take cold water with you for your dog to drink.
  • If you have managed to cool down your dog, still contact your veterinary clinic for advice.
  • Remember - Prevention Really Is Better Than Cure.