Keeping Dogs Cool and Safe this Summer
Written by Dr Claire Stevens
With summer now upon us, it’s a great time of year to be doing fun outdoorsy stuff with our dogs. But, a word of caution, the heat can be deadly for dogs. A dog’s primary method of dispelling heat is by panting. When a dog is unable to cool down sufficiently by panting, its body temperature starts to rise. If no action is taken to address the situation it will suffer from heatstroke, which can be fatal.
Physical Signs of Heatstroke
A dog that is panting excessively or showing other signs of distress is a good indication that it is overheating. Other symptoms of heat stroke include red gums, drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, lack of coordination, inability or unwillingness to move, loss of mental focus or consciousness, and collapse.
If your dog is heat stressed it is vital that you move him to a cool environment immediately. Refrain from giving your dog aspirin or any other human medication in an attempt to bring down his temperature, as this will cause additional problems. In most cases of heat stroke, the following steps will help in his recovery.
- Immerse the dog in a shallow bath of cold water. Alternatively, repeatedly place a towel that has been soaked in cold water onto your dog’s back (this towel needs to be replaced with another cold wet towel every few minutes as it will quickly become warm) or use a low-pressure garden hose to hose the dog down, making sure to let the initial stream of hot water run out before hosing your pet down.
- Let the water run over the entire body, particularly the area behind the head and neck, making sure the dog’s head remains elevated above the water at all times to prevent it swallowing or inhaling water into the lungs.
- Contact your veterinarian or your nearest emergency animal hospital to inform them you are bringing an emergency case through. They will advise you what other steps you need to take in the interim depending on your dog’s condition and how long it will take you to get to the clinic for expert medical care.
- Offer your dog cold water to drink, but don’t force him to drink it.
- Check whether your dog is showing any symptoms that could indicate he is in shock. Ask your vet for advice on what to look out for.
- It can be helpful to take your pet’s temperature at regular 5-minute intervals while continuing to cool it down with water until his temperature drops to below 39°C.
- Get your dog to a veterinarian immediately, ensuring that the car windows are open or the air conditioner is turned on to keep things as cool as possible and prevent your dog from overheating further as you make your way to the clinic.
Once at the veterinary clinic, the veterinarian will rehydrate your dog to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Treatment typically entails administering intravenous fluids and monitoring your pet for any signs of secondary complications such as a change in blood pressure, neurological symptoms or signs of kidney failure.
How to Prevent it
You can prevent your dog from getting heat stroke by taking precautions to ensure your pet remains cool in hot and humid weather. This particularly applies to dogs that have compromised airways and breeds that have short, flat faces such as pugs and Frenchies. Some tips to help you keep your dog cool this summer include:
- When leaving your pet outdoors, always ensure that he has access to shade together with an adequate supply of fresh water to keep him cool and hydrated.
- When travelling with your dog in a vehicle, ensure that your pet has adequate ventilation, especially if he is confined to a travel crate. In hot weather, a doggie seat belt inside a cool car may be a better option. Never, ever leave your pet alone in a vehicle with the windows up, even if it is parked in a shady spot. Opening a window just a little doesn’t always allow sufficient cool air to pass through, so be very careful.
- Don’t walk your dog in the heat of the day. Rather take your pet for a walk early in the morning or in the evening when it is cooler, ensuring you take sufficient water for both you and your dog should the need to rehydrate arise. Also, check how hot the pavement, beach sand or other surface is before you step it out. It may be too hot for your dog’s sensitive paws, in which case you should rather stick to the grass to prevent him from burning his feet.
- Offer your pet ice cubes to keep him cool in summer. Dogs will often readily lick on an ice cube, but to encourage them to do so you can put some Hypro Premium dog food kibble or our wholesome Kangaroo Treats into ice trays with water and freeze them to make refreshing treats that are tasty, healthy and cooling in hot weather.
By taking these simple precautions when the mercury starts to climb, you may not only save your pet the agony of heatstroke, you may very well save his life.