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Looking after your dog on hot days

Now that summer is finally here, dog owners need to take care not to let their pets overheat. Heatstroke can occur seemingly without warning, so it is important to prevent this potentially deadly condition. Just in case your dog is affected, it is a good idea to jot down the contact info for your local Healthy Pet Club practice so that you can call them in an emergency.

Why dogs are susceptible to heatstroke

For humans, sweating is a major method of heat loss. We can also wear lightweight clothing. However, unlike us, dogs can’t take their coats off, and they can only lose heat by panting and by sweating through their paw pads and around their noses. This makes it hard for them to keep cool.

Heatstroke risk factors

The major risk factors for heatstroke are:

  • Being left in a hot car, room or garden with inadequate ventilation and/or water
    • Dogs can die in hot cars in as little as 15 minutes
  • Over-exertion on a hot day
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Breed
    • Flat-faced breeds are at higher risk.

Symptoms of heatstroke

  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive drooling/dribbling
  • Lethargy
  • Drowsiness
  • Incoordination
  • Weakness/collapse
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Dark red/purple gums
  • High body temperature (>40°C)

What to do

  • If you suspect heat-related illness, contact your vet
    • Do this immediately – this is an emergency
  • Take your vet’s advice
    • Note that the mortality rate for dogs with heat-related illnesses is lower if the animal is actively cooled before it get to the vets – so, under veterinary advice, take steps to cool your dog if you suspect that he has heatstroke:
      • Offer water
      • Move him to a cool place, if possible with a draught, fan or air-conditioner
      • Wet his coat with cool (not cold or freezing) water
        • This could be a cool bath or a hose
      • Keep cooling him while travelling to the vet
        • Use a spray bottle
        • Maintain good air flow through car.

Prevention

Your dog may suffer from serious internal organ damage, or even death, as a result of heatstroke. Prevention is therefore very important. Key tips include:

  • Provide constant access to water
    • This includes during walks (take a collapsible bowl and water bottle)
  • Provide shade when outdoors
  • During hot weather, exercise your dog during the early morning/late evening
  • If he does show signs of being too hot (see list above), find somewhere cool to rest and give him water
  • NEVER leave your dog alone in the car, even with the windows open
  • Don’t make your dog walk on hot pavements/surfaces
    • If it is too hot for your hand, it is too hot for your dog.

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