Heatstroke Dog Cartoon

When temperatures start rising, we Brits get very excited about having some fun in the sun. Most of us, though, know the precautions to take to keep ourselves safe - we apply sunblock, we keep ourselves hydrated, we stay in the shade or sit in front of a fan. But it's a little harder when it comes to our dogs.

This article outlines everything you need to know about keeping your dog safe in higher temperatures, and what to do if you end up in trouble. 

Keeping Your Dog Cool

The most important thing to remember when it comes to your dog this summer is to keep them cool at all costs. This is especially important for dogs with longer coats and for dogs with flat faces, such as French bulldogs and pugs. What does this mean?
  • No daytime walks: no dog has ever died from not having a walk, but dogs regularly die because they were walked in high temperatures. If you really want to take your dog out, do it at sunrise or long after the sun has set. If you wouldn't be happy to go for a walk in a zipped-up fleece, then it isn't safe for your dog to be walking. 

  • No strenuous activity: as hard as it may be, especially if you have a toy-obsessed dog, playing fetch or similar high-energy games in the garden is off-limits. The hotter temperatures make it really hard for your dog to regulate their body temperature, so playing these games in the heat is a sure-fire way to end up in the vets. 

  • Be prepared: products such as cool mats, dog-safe paddling pools, and frozen bones can make such a huge difference to your dog when they start getting warm. Dogs can't sweat to cool down like we can - instead, they rely on panting and heat leaving their ears and paws. These tools help your dog to cool down enhancing the heat exchange process, or by mimicking the effect of sweat to help them lose heat more quickly. 

  • 24/7 access to cool water: it's more important than ever to make sure your dog has easy access to fresh, cool water. Have multiple bowls throughout the house if you can, and check on them regularly to make sure they're topped up. 

  • Don't leave them in the car: cars act like greenhouses in hot weather, and can rapidly become unbearable to anyone, dog or human, trapped inside. In just a few minutes, temperatures can reach fatal levels, so it's vital that you don't leave your dog inside one - even if you just need to pop out for a minute. In addition, if you need to travel anywhere with your dog in the car, make sure you ventilate it and cool it down before asking your dog to climb aboard. 

Signs of Heatstroke

If your dog gets too hot and can't cool down again, the likelihood is that they will develop heatstroke. An abnormally high body temperature for a dog is anything above 39.4*C, with anything above 41*C being associated with heatstroke. This can then lead to organ failure, and is all-too-commonly fatal. These are all signs that your dog has gotten too hot, and heatstroke may be setting in: 
  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive drooling 
  • Sticky, thick saliva 
  • Restlessness or excessive lethargy 
  • Very dark or very pale gums
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Appearing disoriented, uncoordinated, and confused
  • Collapse
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhoea 
  • Seizures

What To Do If Your Dog Has Heatstroke

If you suspect your dog is overheating or even already has heatstroke, it's vital that you get them to the vets ASAP. Heatstroke is a medical emergency, and this will be the best chance at keeping them alive. 

In the meantime, such as when travelling to the vets, it's important you help them to reduce their temperature in a controlled way - try to cool them down too quickly, and you can make it worse. 

  • Get them out of the heat and into the shade or a cool room.
  • Pour cool, not cold, water over them, focusing on their head, paws, and armpits. Make sure to keep the water away from their mouth and nose so as to avoid them inhaling any by mistake. You can also do this with cool, wet towels and cloths, but make sure you don't leave them sitting on the dog's skin, as this will trap the heat in.
  • Dribble small amounts of cool water across their tongue (not towards their throat) to encourage them to drink and help them lose heat from their tongue.
  • Keep the air around them flowing to help the water evaporate. Directing a fan or two at them will do the job.
We hope you never end up dealing with heatstroke in your dog, so please follow all of the above precuations to keep your furry family safe this summer. And, if you do treat them to a doggy-friendly paddling pool, enjoy splashing about with them!
First aid

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