Expert vet answers the nation’s queries on keeping your dog cool in a heatwave
Pup-sicles and paw-l parties anyone?! As the UK soars into highs of 30 degrees in certain areas this week… Veterinary expert, Dr Scott Miller working with natural dog food brand Barking Heads answers your heated questions and reveals the best ways to keep dogs cool when it’s hot, hot, hot…
CAN MY DOG GO OUT DURING A HEATWAVE?
Unlike us humans, our dogs can't handle the heat as well as we can. Dogs sweat only through their paws and noses and rely on panting as their primary way of cooling down.
Dogs are susceptible to heat stroke if temperatures are high enough, so whilst they can join us in the garden every now and then – I recommend keeping it to the cooler hours of the day (morning / evening) where the direct sunlight isn’t as strong.
I do warn that heat stroke is a common condition in dogs in the British Summer and can cause significant acute and chronic health issues. Many of our dogs are simply not used to the warmer weather when it finally appears, and with us enjoying the sunshine sometimes we can put our canine companions at risk of exposure to Hyperthermia. Older dogs or brachycephalic (flat faced dogs) tend to be more sensitive to extremes of temperature.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS MY DOG IS STRUGGLING WITH THE HEAT?
Heat stroke can present itself as excessive panting that does not abate, distress, drooling or even collapse. If you think your pet may be in distress from the heat, I recommend contacting your local vet for advice and they can then decide on the best course of action to take for your dog. Some symptoms which may indicate your pet is in distress are:
Lethargy (Not themselves!)
Prolonged lack of appetite
Inability to stand up
WHAT CAN I DO TO KEEP MY DOG COOL DURING A HEATWAVE?
There are plenty of ways you can keep your pet safe from these higher temperatures and to make them feel more comfortable. It’s important NOT to fully immerse them in water as that can shock them or turn overheating into shock and/or drowning.
Instead, standing them in cold water and scooping it over your dog can work well, otherwise find shade and dowse them in water from a water bottle. If at home, consider draping them in damp towels and use a fan to cool them. Allow you dog to drink as much as they wish and consider early or late walks and resting during the hottest part of the day to avoid heat stroke.
If collapsed, extend the neck, clear the mouth, and vigorously massage the legs to maintain healthy blood flow. Always advise your Vet after an incident of hyperthermia, as your canine companion may show signs of ill health a few days after the event and should be monitored closely.
A further guide to keep your dog cool in summer:
• Add extra water to their food - soak their dry food and / or feed them wet food for additional hydration support
• Keep your pet indoors and out of the sun during the strong, direct sunlight hours
• Don’t shave your dog's coat! - although tempting… it's very important not to shave your dog's fur as this acts as an insulator; keeping your pet warm in the Winter and cool in the Summer. Regular grooming can help them regulate their temperature, particularly if they have long or thick fur.
• Walk your dogs early in the morning / late in the evening (feel the pavement with your hand to see if it's cool, to ensure no risk of burning their pads)
• Always ensure they have access to a full water bowl - you can add ice packs or cubes to their water, make pet ice lollies (pupsicles)
• Circulate cool air inside using fans or air conditioning
• Use damp towels or a cooling mat
• Add shaded areas in the garden - if your pet loves to be outside with you, ensure there are shaded spots for your dog with access to water and their favourite toys and treats to keep them busy out of the sun.
• Apply dog-friendly sunscreen to their skin - Yep! Dogs can get sunburn too so don't forget to apply sunscreen to those sensitive areas on your dog’s skin (nose, ears, lips, and stomach). Especially if you have a white, light coloured, or patchy furred dog.
• Don’t leave your dog in a hot car, no matter the circumstances!