Dogs are particularly prone to overheating during the blistering summer heatwaves experienced in the UK around July each year. Unlike people, they have no sweat glands and are dependent purely on panting to cool down their bodies. Picture wearing a thick fur coat on a scorching hot day, while being wholly dependent on cooling through your paws and saliva evaporation from your tongue alone; this provides a simpler concept for us, humans, to grasp. Even panting cannot lower their body temperature sufficiently when it’s too hot. They easily suffer fatal heatstroke, or brain/organ damage if their body temperature gets too high. Even with temperatures as low as 20–23°C, dogs are at risk of heatstroke when exercised hard or if having an underlying condition such as lung problems or being overweight. Flat-nosed breeds or large dogs need extra caution as they will find temperatures from 24–27°C difficult to endure. Between 28–31°C the heat becomes dangerously life-threatening to all dogs. At or over 32°C fatal heatstroke is a decided risk to every dog irrespective of its size or age. On hot days, just a short spell of chasing a ball or ten minutes of walking may prove too much for our dogs.
Remember your dog’s paws are also sensitive to hot surfaces. The rule of thumb is that if you cannot comfortably hold your bare hand on the surface of the road or pavement for seven seconds, you should not walk your dog until it is cooler; your dog might otherwise suffer burns to his or her paws.
* Don’t walk your dogs at the hottest times of the day, particularly from 11 am until the evening cools significantly, and during summer try to avoid walking your dog between 8 am and 8 pm;
* Keep walks short when it’s warm. Just enough to do poos and wees should suffice;
* With special reference to bulldogs and other short nose breeds, do not overexercise them;
* At first signs of overheating when out walking, stop and let your dog rest in the shade before moving on/returning home;
* Make sure cool drinking water is always available. Add some ice blocks if you feel necessary;
* Keep a spray-mister bottle handy, containing only water, to spray shorthaired breeds of dogs, to help cool them down;
* Spray them with cold water using a garden hosepipe;
* Use an ice pack wrapped in their bedding if felt necessary;
* Let them / get them to swim in the sea, river, lake or pool.
Never leave your dogs in a locked car or unattended. On a hot day, it is better for you to leave your dog at home. Even with the windows wide open and parked in the shade, the temperature within the car will quickly rise to fatally high levels. It has been measured and established by the RSCPA that with an outside temperature of just 22°C, the interior of the car will heat up to an incredible 47°C within just sixty minutes (with the door windows slightly opened). Of course on a hot day, this can happen within minutes. We have all heard of tragic endings to these scenarios when an owner’s return is delayed for some unavoidable reason and he/she gets back to their car too late. Every year many thousands of dogs across the world die in locked cars. Indeed, this is the most common cause of heatstroke in dogs. Should you come across a dog in distress in such circumstances, your best option is to call 999 and request assistance; in some cases concerned citizens who have taken it upon themselves to break the car window to gain access to the dog, have later faced criminal charges for damage caused, and it may be difficult to raise a defence of justification for your actions. The law says you may lawfully commit damage if you believe the owner of the property that you damage would have consented to the damage had they known the circumstances