Four tips to keep your dog cool and comfortable in the heat
The UK is set to be hit with a heatwave this weekend, with temperatures predicted to reach up to 25 degrees. This type of heat can mean we have to take extra care of our canine companions, and the dog experts at Ruffwear have revealed four unique tips that you may not know to help keep your best friend cool and comfortable in the warmer weather.
Ruffwear also worked with specialist veterinary surgeon Dr Bronwyn Fullagar (BVSc, MS, DACVS-SA) to help discover the signs of heatstroke, as well as which breeds of dogs are most at risk for heatstroke.
- Pack 20ml of water per kilogram of body weight for your dog
Dr Bronwyn Fullagar, a specialist veterinary surgeon, provided Ruffwear with her expert tips for keeping your canine friend hydrated in the warmer weather: “A good starting point for the right amount of water is 20ml per kg bodyweight, per 1 hour of exercise. This equates to about 700mL-1 litre for an average Labrador for a one-hour hike or 150-250mL for an average Shih Tzu.
“Higher intensity activity, hotter weather, or higher humidity will increase water requirements more. Don’t forget to pack some extra to account for spillage and wetting your pup’s fur or cooling gear.”
- Use children’s mini sunshade tents or an umbrella if you don’t naturally have a shaded area in the garden
With the weather feeling much hotter, there are chances that you’ll be spending more time outdoors with your dog. However, the option of a shaded spot might not be accessible which can be the case, especially in south-facing gardens.
The dog experts at Ruffwear explain that “using a children’s mini sunshade tent or an umbrella that you can stick into the ground to create a patch of shade is perfect for dogs to cool off, especially if they love being outside but don’t like to sit in the direct heat of the sun.”
- If travelling in the car, use air conditioning rather than opening windows
When you’re travelling places in your car during the heatwave, it can be tempting to open the windows wide for your travelling companion to stick their head out and feel the wind in their face. However, the experts at Ruffwear advise that “by opening your car windows when travelling in the car, you are pretty much circulating the hot air that is outside and not actually getting the cool air that is beneficial.
“Keep the windows closed and use your vehicle’s air conditioning on the coolest setting to make sure you have a comfortable travelling environment for both yourself and your canine co-pilot.”
- Utilise tiled floors, towels and water-cooling vests
The dog experts at Ruffwear say, “Fun fact - dogs don’t sweat anywhere, apart from through their paw pads! Ever notice how your dog loves to sprawl on the tile floor in summer? This is called conduction and is typically more effective in short-haired dogs.
“Like their human friends, dogs cool down faster when wet, especially if there is a breeze blowing. Water from a wet cooling vest evaporates and is transferred away by air currents, ensuring dogs can cool down more efficiently. If you don’t have a tiled floor or a cooling vest, you can drench a large towel with cold water and lie this on the ground for them to lie down on.”
These are the signs of heat stroke you need to look out for
With more of us wanting to go out for walks to enjoy the sunshine, Dr Fullagar provides the signs you need to look out for that your companion may have heat stroke.
Dr Fullagar explains that “early signs of heat stress include heavy panting, lagging behind, acting tired, wanting to lie down, making ‘snoring’ noises while panting, loss of balance, and appearing agitated. If you notice these early signs while out on the trail, stop exercising immediately, provide water and shade, and wet your dog’s fur (or their cooling vest), then head home and call your local veterinarian for advice.
“If these signs worsen despite your initial actions, if your dog is having trouble breathing, collapses, has brick red, blue or very pale gums, cannot walk or is not responding normally to you, seek veterinary attention immediately.”
These are the 5 dog breeds most at risk for heat stroke
Although any age or breed of dog can overheat, some are much more susceptible than others and exercise that might be easily tolerated by one dog may not be suitable for another.
- Short faced breeds
This refers to breeds such as French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston Terriers. Many short-faced dogs have a condition called brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, a congenital narrowing and obstruction of the upper airways. Because of this, they cannot pant effectively and can rapidly overheat, which can lead to heat stress and heat stroke. It is especially important to pay close attention to your short-faced friend and take extra precautions to keep them cool.
- Puppies younger than 8-10 months and elderly dogs
Both puppies and elderly dogs are less able to regulate their body temperature the same as adult dogs can, so it’s important to follow the steps to keep them comfortable in the heat.
- Dogs with heart disease, lung or airway problems
Dogs with these conditions are less capable of adapting to heat and panting to regulate their body temperature. If you are unsure whether your dog has a heart, lung, or airway condition, ask your veterinarian for advice.
- Dogs with thick or dark-coloured hair coats
Our furry friends with thick and dark coats will get hotter faster than dogs with thin, light-coloured coats. Dogs with very thick fur coats (e.g. Newfoundlands, arctic breeds) will be more susceptible to heat stress than, for example, a desert-adapted breed like a Vizsla or a Whippet.
- Dogs who are overweight
If your dog is overweight, they may be less efficient at thermoregulation during hot weather.