Imagine wearing a fur coat on a hot summer’s day and you’ll understand why a dog is a soft target for heatstroke. Last year in August, the UK recorded its highest temperature in 17 years, when we reached an alarmingly scorching 36.4C in parts of London. As summer approaches and temperatures start to climb again, it’s vital to your dog’s health that you do everything you can to keep your animal as cool as possible this summer.
How to keep your dog from overheating and getting heatstroke
Understand how dogs cool down
Summer can be a stressful season for dogs. A dog’s normal body temperature is generally a few degrees higher than ours, and its ability to regulate body temperature is limited. They pant and release heat through their nose and paw pads. Not having sweat glands as we humans do makes their bodies far more sensitive to ambient temperature.
Changing exercise times to the cooler parts of the day
This will make life that much more comfortable for both of you, and keeping him in the shade, with plenty of water is important.
Change the setting on your thermostat
If you have a thermostat control in your dwelling, you should ideally set the thermostat at around 75 to 78 degrees F (23 to 25 degrees C) for summer. A larger and/or longer haired dog will be most comfortable at around 75F / 23C.
Create shade for them
Try to make sure that there is sufficient shade outdoors or even create a shady area using shade netting, or tarpaulin, and even dampen some towels for your dog to lie on. Depending on the size of your garden, let your dog splash in a paddling pool, or occasionally turn on your sprinkler for him to play.
Cool their water
Ice cubes in their water is a good idea, and so is taking a small dish and a bottle of water on your walks.
Clip their coat
If their coat is very thick get it clipped in preparation for summer.
A doggie diet
Don’t let your dog be overweight as this will only exacerbate their sensitivity to the heat.
Take a look at our article on Why Dogs Pant, for more information on signs that your dog’s panting can be a sign of distress.
Dog's cannot be left in cars
All too often, we read of dogs that have been left in hot cars, which results in their suffering severe heatstroke, irreparable organ damage, seizures, coma, brain damage, and even death. A car left in the sun with its windows closed is like an oven. It continues to get hotter and hotter. It can be 22 degrees outside, but within an hour the temperature inside the car can more than double to a frightening 47 degrees.
Even leaving the windows slightly open can be dangerous.The heat may be slightly lower than when all the windows are closed, but it is most certainly not safe for dogs. A car parked in the shade is also problematic, it may be a false sense of cool. The only way to prevent a disaster is to never leave your dog in a car on very warm days.
While we trust that you have sufficient good sense to know this, not everybody is as sensible as you are. So what do you do if you come across a dog that’s shut inside a very hot car, and there’s no sign of the owner? And the signs of heatstroke are beginning to show. Can you smash the window and rescue it? Your good deed might lead to legal problems that you’re not likely to want to have to cope with.
Does my dog have heatstroke?
- excessive panting
- red gums
- foaming at the mouth
- vomiting and diarrhoea
- uncoordinated movements
- physical collapse
The RSPCA recommends that if you come upon a situation where an animal is in this kind of distress, you need to call 999 if you can see that there is an emergency. Legally, only the police have the authority to make a forced entry into somebody’s property, which includes motor cars. According to the Animal Welfare Act of 2006, only a local authority inspector or a Police Constable has the power to enter a premises to assist an animal that is likely to be suffering. As a member of the public, if you break someone’s car window you are liable to be investigated for criminal damage. However, under the 1971 Criminal Damage Act, you do have a lawful excuse to cause such damage if you believe the owner of the property would consent to it under the circumstances. It’s really a rather grey area, and the safest course of action is to contact someone in authority and report the problem as soon as you can. For example, if you’re at a busy shopping centre or supermarket, or in a car park when you find a distressed dog like this, make a note of the make and model and colour of the car, and its registration, and ask the customer services manager of the shopping centre to make an announcement over the public address system. If at all possible, don't leave the scene until the situation has been resolved.
Kindness to animals is a very human instinct. But at all times, and in all circumstances, take a moment to think before you act. Take photographs or a video of the car and the dog, and ask witnesses to corroborate that what you are doing is only in order to render assistance to the animal.
Do you know an exceptional dog or a person working to improve the lives of dogs?
Nominate them for a Naturo SuperDog Award. There are seven different categories and you may submit as many different nominees as you wish. Our amazing dogs deserve recognition and this a quick and easy way to show our appreciation for our furry friends.