2018's record-breaking summer temperatures have been a hot topic of conversation ever since. Sadly however, the fantastic weather brought with it an influx of media coverage on dog deaths as a result of being left in cars. As we look forward to the Summer of 2019, it's extremely important to be mindful of the effects of hot weather on our beloved pets.
Thanks to life-saving campaigns by the likes of RSPCA and Dogs Today, more and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars. To some, it may still seem like a perfectly acceptable thing to do, but it takes only 6 minutes for a dog to become dangerously overheated in a car - which is about the amount of time it takes to pop into a shop for the newspaper and some milk.
Worryingly, it's not just in hot cars that dogs can easily become overheated. Plenty of other locations such as out in an unshaded garden on a particularly hot day, or in direct sunlight in a warm room, can cause your dog to develop heatstroke, which can have catastrophic consequences. In particularly warm weather, over-exercising or even exercising a dog at all can also have detrimental effects.
Unfortunately for our four-legged friends, they just can't handle the heat as well as most humans can. It takes a dog at least 60 days to acclimatise to temperature changes, and it takes just a 2°C canine body temperature increase for the effects of heatstroke to kick in.
Dogs are unable to 'sweat', which is a human's primary response to an increasing body temperature. A dog will attempt to cool itself down by releasing heat through panting, increasing its heart-rate (to open up capillaries in the skin), and licking itself to encourage evaporation. If none of these methods work, and the dog's internal temperature rises to 41°C and above, it becomes at risk of heatstroke (which only 50% of dogs survive). Without going into too many nasty details, heatstroke can cause a dog's bodily functions to fail, which ultimately leads to death.
Perhaps obviously, dogs with longer/thicker coats, dogs with shorter muzzles/noses and larger/overweight dogs are all more susceptible to heatstroke. With almost half of all pet dogs in the UK being considered 'obese', that's a large proportion of UK dogs which are at a higher-than-average risk of heat-related illnesses.
Of course, there are lots of ways that we, as responsible dog owners, can help our dogs during hot weather:
- Give them constant access to cool, shaded and well-ventilated areas with plenty of fresh water.
- Only walk your pup if absolutely necessary and during cooler parts of the day (early morning/ later in the evening). Always do a pavement check! If it's too hot for you to walk barefoot, it's too hot for your pup's paws.
- Provide physical cooling aids such as commercially-available cooling mats and Frozzys frozen yogurt. An added benefit of Frozzys is that its consumption will mentally-stimulate your dog, who might be getting a bit bored if they are getting less exercise than usual thanks to the hot weather.
- Be aware! Watch out for signs of overheating, which include excessive panting, licking, loud breathing, unsteady walking and 'drowsiness'. If you notice any of these, take immediate action and contact your vet if required.
Summer is a great time of year and we're definitely all much happier when the sun is shining. So of course, take the opportunity to enjoy sunny days and fresh air with your dogs, but just always be mindful of everything you've read here. In case of any doubt, always play it safe and contact your local Vet if you have any worries or need any advice.