How to keep your dog safe during hot weather
With the weather heating up, it’s so important to look after our four-legged friends to avoid them overheating which can be fatal.
Unlike humans, they don’t sweat through their skin, which makes it very difficult for them to regulate their temperature properly. Their main ways of reducing their body heat are panting and releasing heat through their paw pads and their nose.
We’ve pulled together some of the biggest and most effective precautions you can take to reduce the risks to your four legged friend that may occur during the summer.
In hot weather it doesn’t take long for pets to develop heatstroke, which can be fatal. This means you need to be aware of the signs and what you can do to help so you can act quickly, avoiding a very poorly pooch and a trip to the vets.
The main signs of heatstroke in a dog include:
- Excessive panting
- Bright red tongue
- Reddened gums
What can you do if your dog shows signs of heatstroke?
- Move your pet to a cool place
- Wet their coat with cool, not cold, water or wrap them in a wet towel
- Give them some drinking water (not too much if they have collapsed as their kidneys may not be functioning properly)
- Call your vet immediately
How can you prevent heatstroke?
- Ensure your dog has regular and easy access to water. If you’re on a walk, bring a bottle of water and a foldable dog bowl.
- Avoid walking your dog in the hotter parts of the days if you can. Aim for early morning or late evening when the sun is at its lowest.
- Keep an eye on your pet for signs of heatstroke. If you notice any signs, find shade, let them rest, give them water, and consider returning home.
- NEVER leave your dog in the car; even with the windows open the car can be an unbearable place in hot weather and can cause death, even after short periods.
- Have some fun and make tasty iced dog treats. They’re easy; just get your dog’s favourite treats, place them in an ice cube tray, add water, and then place in the freezer.
- Treat your dog to a specialised cooling coat
Is it safe to leave a dog in the car?
Your dog’s difficulty to regulate their body temperature means that leaving your dog in your car can be fatal.
Imagine sitting in your car on a hot summer’s day for an hour. Even with the windows open, the heat inside the car will soon become unbearable. Now imagine having a thick coat on that you can’t remove and on top of that, you already struggle to reduce your body heat naturally.
Now you can begin to understand why you should NEVER leave your dog in a car, not even for a few minutes.
What should you do if you see a dog in distress in a car?
Your first instinct may be to break the window and free the dog yourself – Do not do this immediately.
Before you take any action, the official advice is to dial 999 and ask for the police. The police will tell you what to do, which may be to smash the window.
If you smash a car window to release a dog without proper justification, i.e. a request from the police, you can be charged with criminal damage.
If you need to smash a car window, you must be very careful. Choose the window furthest from the pet and try not to use excessive force to avoid glass hitting and potentially injuring the dog. You must also take care to keep them calm as stress will make it even harder for them to cool down.
Which dog breeds are better suited to hot weather?
Throughout history, mankind has developed hundreds of dog breeds, usually for specific reasons. This breeding has created one of the most diverse species on Earth including some that can cope very well with heat, and some that can’t.
Many factors affect how well a dog can cope with hot weather including their size, coat, and snout size/length.
So what dogs can take the heat?
Below is a short list of some of the dog breeds that cope better in hot weather.
- American Foxhound
- Golden Retriever
- Great Dane
- Italian Greyhound
- Labrador Retriever
- Bichon Frise
- Border Collie
The breeds listed above are well adapted in different ways to handle the heat however this doesn’t mean you don’t need to take precautions in hot weather.
No animal is immune to dehydration, exhaustion or sun stroke, so your role as a responsible dog owner is to make sure they have a regular source of water and shade when out in the sun.
What dog breeds don’t handle hot weather well?
Some dog breeds don't handle the heat well at all for a whole host of reason.
Flat faced dogs, such as the bulldog, boxer and French bulldog, are unable to cool themselves down by panting effectively, so owners must be very careful.
Larger breeds such as the Saint Bernard also suffer due to their thick skin, large body, and exercise requirements.
As you can imagine, breeds with thick, double coats struggle to keep cool. What may not be obvious is that those with very short or thin coats also suffer in the heat but for a different reason - they are susceptible to sunburn.
It’s not just thickness of fur that effects a dog’s ability to handle heat, it is also the colour. Pale dogs in particular can be vulnerable to sunburn and high risk areas include ears, noses and any other sparsely haired areas.
for dogs with short or pale fur, you will need to use sun cream, especially on their most vulnerable areas.
Age is also a consideration with very young and older dogs at higher risk of heatstroke.
Below are some breeds that are poorly suited for hot weather:
- American Bulldog
- Basset Hound
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- French Bulldog
- Lhasa Apso
- Saint Bernard
- Shih Tzu
Exercising your pet in the Summer
Your pet’s exercise requirements don’t get any less during summer, so it’s important that you still keep them active whilst keeping them safe from heatstroke.
There are some precautions you can take to reduce the risks.
Here are some simple tips to follow when walking your dog in the Summer:
- Walk your dog in the early morning or evening when the sun is at its lowest
- Touch the pavement with your hand. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws, so don’t risk a walk, or use some doggy shoes
- Keep a constant eye on your dog for any signs of heatstroke
- Pack water, a foldable dog bowl and an umbrella for emergency shade
Swimming is a great form of exercise for dogs and can be an effective method of reducing their body heat, however there are a few things to consider:
- Not all dogs like swimming, so don’t force it
- Never throw your dog in the water, even if they’re a good swimmer
- Be wary of the sea state, tide and current. This also applies to rivers
- If your dog is swept aware by the current, do not follow them into the water – call 999 immediately and ask for the coastguard who are trained in rescuing animals
- Drinking salt water will make your dog sick, so train your dog to return to you for fresh water
- When they’re finished, wash your dog’s coat with fresh water to remove salt and sand which will irritate their skin
- Check the water is clean because some types of algae are toxic to dogs. If you’re unsure, don’t risk it
- If your dog inhales water, drinks very dirty water, or eats something they shouldn’t, contact your vet immediately
If it's too hot or sunny outside for your pooch, there are plenty of ways you can exercise them indoors.
Here are just a few examples:
- User a treadmill
- Play fetch
- Try an obstacle course
- Play hide and seek
- Teach them a new trick or discipline
- Stimulate their senses
- Join some classes
- Use puzzle toys
Our blog, 8 ways to exercise your pet indoors, goes into more depth on each of the above indoor exercise tips.
Pests and other dangerous animals
In the summer, pests like fleas and ticks start to appear in large numbers. It's not only these you have to be careful of; there are other small critters that you need to be wary of like adders which your dog may stumble across.
In most cases, fleas are more of an annoyance for dogs than anything else; they cause discomfort and itching which can lead to severe scratches and infections.
You can’t prevent fleas with a one-off application; you need to apply flea treatment regularly for it to be effective. Speak to your vet for recommendations on the best treatments.
Ticks are egg-shaped critters you may find on your dog after a walk in woodlands, grassland or heath areas.
They are tricky to remove and can carry deadly diseases, so it’s important to remove them properly and quickly.
The reason they are tricky is because their head can be left inside your dog if you don’t use the correct method and tools.
Lyme disease is a very serious disease transmitted by ticks to dogs. Ticks carrying Lyme disease are most likely to be present in areas with deer or sheep so, if you live near these areas, you should consider tick treatment which should kill a tick before they transmit any disease.
Dos and Don’ts for removing ticks:
- Don’t squeeze the tick’s body
- Don’t leave the head inside your dog
- Do buy a trusted tick removal tool from your local pet store
- If you don’t have a tool, twisting the tick is the best removal method
- Do ask your vest for advice
Bees and wasps
We’ve all seen a dog chasing, biting and barking at what looks to us like empty space but is most likely some form of flying insect. Whilst this can be amusing, it could also be dangerous if that flying insect turns out to be a bee or wasp.
Generally a bee or wasp sting will only cause pain and irritation in your dog, much like it would for a human, but multiple stings can be fatal in some cases.
Snapping at bees or wasps could lead to your dog being stung in the mouth or throat which can be very serious as the bite could swell up and cause your dog to choke.
Like humans, some dogs are allergic to bee and wasp stings so, if your dog is stung, make sure you check for any signs of a reaction which could be a rash, swelling or difficulty breathing.
If you think your dog has had, or is having a reaction or has been stung multiple times, take them straight to the vet.
Considering all of this, we recommend dog owners not to encourage their dogs to play with bees or wasps.
Adders are the only venomous snake that are native to England. Whilst they’re not the deadliest of snakes, their venom can still be very dangerous for dogs and humans alike.
Although they tend to stay out of the way of humans, your dog’s inquisitive nature could mean they one day encounter an adder basking in the sun. They may also stumble across an adder whilst exploring woodland, heathland or sandy areas.
The dangerous thing about adders is that they’ll bite when they feel threatened and unfortunately dogs don’t understand this, so they don’t know to stay away.
In the event of a bite, reacting quickly is the key to your dog’s survival. If you think your dog has been bitten, call the vet and arrange treatment immediately. If possible, carry the dog, instead of them walking, to prevent the venom spreading.