Dogs in hot weather – everything you need to know

This week has been el scortchio, so we’ve had the fans on, the iced treats out, the cool mats down and the paddling pool filled. It’s really important to help keep our dogs safe in this weather, because dehydration and heatstroke can be absolutely devastating for our pets.

This post will take you through some top tips for keeping dogs cool, as well as the signs of heatstroke, and what you can do at home if you suspect your pooch has it – as learned on my Canine First Aid course earlier this year.

How hot is too hot?

A dog’s normal temperature should be 37.5-39.2C, and if the weather is anything about 20C, then heatstroke is a potential risk because dogs can’t sweat through their skin, so have to rely on panting and releasing sweat through their paw pads to regulate their temperature.

VetsNow suggest that temperatures between 16-19C are generally safe for dogs, but between 20-23C have a six out of 10 risk rating. The risk rises to nine out of 10 for temperatures between 24-27C, and 10 out of 10 over 32C.

There’s a quick way to work out if it’s too hot to walk your dog – place the back of your hand on the tarmac, and if you can’t hold it for more than seven seconds without it burning, it’s too hot.

What is heatstroke, and what are the symptoms?

Hyperthermia, or heatstroke is an increased body temperature due to external factors such as being trapped in a hot car, rigorous exercise in the heat or being exposed to too much sun.

The symptoms of heatstroke to look out for include:

  • Panting which increases as heatstroke progresses
  • Drooling/salivating
  • Agitation/restlessness
  • Very red or pale gums
  • Bright red tongue
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing distress
  • Vomiting/Diarrhea (possibly with blood)
  • Delirium
  • Dizziness/staggering
  • Lethargy/weakness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Collapsing and lying down
  • Little to no urine production
  • Coma

What to do if you think your dog has heatstroke

The RSPCA said: “For the best chance of survival, dogs suffering from heatstroke urgently need to have their body temperature lowered gradually.”

  • Move the dog to a shaded and cool area
  • Immediately pour cool (not cold to avoid shock) water over the dog. If possible, you can also use wet towels or place them in the breeze of a fan
  • Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water
  • Continue to pour cool water over the dog until their breathing starts to settle, but not too much that they start shivering

Once the dog is cool, take them to the nearest vet as a matter of urgency.

Animal Love – who offer a canine first aid course – also suggest spraying surgical spirit or tepid water on the paw pads, repeating every few minutes, which will hekp cool the dog down.

Did you know that dogs can get sunburnt?

There are a handful of breeds most at risk of sunburn, including bull terriers, frenchies, boxers, dalmatians, greyhounds and westies. Experts at tails.com said: “Like us, a dog will get sunburn if their skin is exposed to the hot sun for too long. And like with humans, dog sunburn has a warm, reddish-pink appearance and is equally uncomfortable.

“Some dogs are more prone to burn than others, such as those with thin hair, or with areas of less hair and more exposed skin. Dogs with a very light skin and coat are also a higher risk, because darker pigments protect the skin. Where your dog has lighter, pinker skin, it’s more prone to get sunburn.”

Dogs are most likely to get sunburn where there is less hair, like around the eyes, ears, lips, nose and on their belly. Phoebe is a real sun worshiper, and has been caught on her belly a few times when we didn’t think it was that warm – but you do have to be careful!

Tails.com added: “Also like us, increased exposure to the sun and its UV rays can potentially lead to skin cancer in your dog. If you notice any unusual lumps, or a patch of skin that’s changed colour, we recommend you take your dog to the vet to get them checked out.”

Last year we bought some dog suncream for Phoebe and Frank, and always use it on their nose if they’re going out in the garden.

Tails.com recommend using a specialist suncream for dogs to avoid any chemicals found in human protectants.

Top tips for dogs to keep cool in summer

  1. Wet your dogs bandanas to keep them cool.
  2. Encourage them to sit in the shade.
  3. Always ensure there is cold, fresh water down. It’s good to have multiple bowls in various rooms.
  4. Look out for signs of heatstroke to act fast if you spot symptoms.
  5. Let your hosepipe run before playing with the dogs with it, as if it’s been sat in direct sun the water can heat up.
  6. Invest in cooling products like cool mats and bandanas.
  7. Take your dog to a groomer to make sure their coat is right for the weather.
  8. Walk your dog early morning or later in the evening when it’s cooled down
  9. Don’t stress if your dog is eating less – it’s literally too hot to eat – just make sure they’re drinking
  10. Protect your dog against fleas and worms
  11. Fill up the paddling pool and let it sit in the sun for 20 minutes to warm up so the water isn’t too cold for them
  12. Spray your dog with water then create a breeze with a fan to cool them down
  13. Buy, or make iced treats – you’ll often see conflicted advice around giving dogs ice cubes. The occasional ice cube is fine to help cool a hot dog down, but it’s not advised to give to dogs suffering with heatstroke
  14. Limit playtime to short bursts

Our favourite cooling products for Phoebe and Frank

  • Chad Valley Water and Sand Pit for paddling
  • Orange cool mat from B&M
  • Frozzy’s frozen yoghurt treats
  • B&M water fountain

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