Hot Weather Advice for #CoolDogs
With warmer weather on the horizon, we’ve got hot tips to keep canines cool all summer long!
Because our furry friends can’t cool themselves down as effectively as people can, it’s up to us to make sure they stay safe in warmer weather conditions. Heatstroke is a real risk for dogs as they must rely on cooling down by panting or releasing small amounts of heat through their paw pads. When air and ground temperatures are high, this becomes increasingly difficult, and they can quickly overheat.
What is heatstroke?
Heatstroke occurs when a dog’s body becomes so overheated, it cannot cool down using its normal methods. A recent study found that this occurs most often during exercise, but can also happen if a dog is kept in a confined space such as a car.
Symptoms of heatstroke include:
- panting heavily
- drooling excessively
- appearing lethargic, drowsy or uncoordinated
Heatstroke in dogs is a serious and sadly sometimes fatal condition for dogs. If you notice any of the above symptoms in your dog it is vital you take quick action and follow the steps below.
Treating heatstroke in dogs:
It is important to seek immediate veterinary attention as soon as you suspect heatstroke; the sooner this happens, the better chance your dog has of making a full recovery.
- Dial your vet on speaker phone immediately, while moving your dog to a cool or shaded area, lying them down on a wet towel or cooling mat. Don’t cover them with a wet towel, as they dry quickly and this can increase their temperature further. Advise your vet that your dog may be suffering from heatstroke and describe your dog’s symptoms.
- If you are waiting for transport and cannot immediately get your dog to the vet, start pouring small amounts of room temperature (not cold) water onto your dog’s body, avoiding their face, to gently cool their external skin temperature. If they are alert, offer them small amounts of room temperature (never cold) water to help bring their temperature down further. They can also be placed in front of the breeze of a fan if you have one available.
- If you are driving to the vet, the above step can be done in the car, provided you have someone to help you. You can also make an active attempt to cool the car on the way by driving with the windows down or air-conditioning on. This should help to further reduce your dog’s core temperature.
The main goal of treating heatstroke in dogs is to lower their body temperature quickly enough to prevent further damage being done to their vital organs, but not so quickly that the dog goes into shock, or that blood vessels in the skin constrict and blood flow to the area is reduced- both of these scenarios prevent cooling, and this is why the use of very cold water or ice is not recommended. A dog’s temperature should be monitored so that once they reach a normal core temperature, active cooling can be stopped and this should prevent hypothermia (abnormally low body temperature). Dogs that recover are usually those whose temperatures are returned to normal as early as possible. The longer their body temperature stays at a high-level, the greater the potential for damage to their vital organs.
Hot Tips for #CoolDogs
As always, prevention is better than the cure, so here are our top tips for keeping your pup cool during warmer weather:
- Never, ever leave your dog in a car in warm weather, even if it feels cool outside – parking in the shade with a window down does very little to lower the temperature inside a car. On a 22-degree Celsius day, the temperature inside your car could rise by 11 degrees in just 10 minutes.
- Avoid walking your dog at the hottest time of the day – often morning and later in the evening can be cooler. Be sure not to overwalk them and bring plenty of fresh water for them to drink.
- Make sure your dog has access to plenty of cool, fresh water, when they are at home too.
- Another great way to make sure your dog stays hydrated is by freezing some of their favourite toys in water or making an ice-lick with frozen treats inside. This will encourage them to lick the ice which will hydrate them!
- Make sure your dog always has shaded areas to cool off in, both indoors and outdoors.
- On very hot days, you can place a damp towel in their shady spot that they can lie on to keep them even cooler. Don’t forget to replace or rewet it regularly though as it can dry out quickly. Never place a damp towel over a dog as it could actually cause their temperature to rise.
- Think twice about any car trips with your dog - avoid congested roads or busy times of day when they could overheat in the car if you are caught up in traffic.
- Avoid long car journeys in hot weather, if you need to travel, avoid the heat of the day and use a car sunblind for shade. Always plan for plenty of water and toilet stops too.
- Before you set out on an adventure with your dog, check ahead to make sure dogs are welcome. Some public parks and beaches have restrictions for dogs at certain times of the year.
- Don’t allow your dog to get too much sun. Just like people, they can get sunburnt too – especially dogs with white or very thin coats. Areas to be particularly mindful of are the tips of the ears, the bridge of the nose or anywhere the skin is exposed. Always seek the advice of a registered vet if you are considering using sunscreen on your dog – even if it is labelled as “Pet-Safe or Pet-Friendly”.
- Be extra vigilant with older dogs, overweight dogs, dogs with shorter muzzles or flat faces (known as brachycephalic breeds) or dogs with breathing difficulties as they are more prone to overheating.
- It can also be a good idea to trim back particularly hairy dogs’ fur on consultation with your groomer, so they won’t get so hot.
What to do if you see a dog in a car
Never ever leave your dog alone in a car. Even if the car is parked in the shade and the windows are left down, it does very little to keep the temperature in the car low.
If you see a dog alone in a car, first have a look around for the owner. If you cannot see the owner and you are worried the dog may be suffering from heatstroke, contact the local Garda Station and give them details of the situation. Stay with the dog until the Gardaí arrive and once the dog has been safely removed from the car, seek veterinary attention immediately. You can find details of your local Garda Station on their website: https://www.garda.ie/en/contact-us/station-directory/
If the situation becomes critical for the dog and the Gardaí are too far away or unable to attend, many people's instinct will be to break into the car to free the dog. If you decide to do this, please be aware, this could be classed as criminal damage and, potentially, you may need to defend your actions in court.
Other summer safety advice
Warmer weather usually has us all thinking about spending time at the beach, or lovely long walks beside cool rivers, but it’s important we keep our dogs safety in mind when around bodies of water too!
Here are some of our tips when it comes to summer dips:
- There are many risks to permitting a dog to swim in water, fetch toys or even just paddling etc – water ingestion, toxic blue-green algae, underwater hazards such as broken glass, fishing hooks that can cause nasty injuries and be difficult to remove etc. If you are unsure, it is best to stay away from water altogether.
- When walking by water it’s important to have a well-practised recall, and food-manners/leave it to be able to call your dog away from tempting distractions like birds and fisherman’s lunches or kids feeding birds with bread etc.
- It therefore might also help to take a harness and longline lead with you so you can ensure control over your dog while still permitting them some freedom to roam a little.
- Some dogs will naturally want to enter water, some might even leap in so you do need to be vigilant and pop your dog on lead if they might jump into water they can’t necessarily easily get out of.
- Never force your dog to enter the water. If you’d like to encourage your dog to paddle and they’re a little unsure, choose a sloping flat ‘beach’ so they can walk in without having to take any ‘leap of faith’ and ideally where the bottom can be seen. Wait next to the water’s edge calmly to see if they take a step towards it or to investigate it, then praise. Let them go at their own pace and if they don’t want to paddle that’s fine – if you let them decide for themselves, they’ll feel safer and of course they need to trust you to be there to help them out and not ever make them feel uncomfortable.
- Another risk with waterside walking is that sometimes you get reeds or water grasses very close to the edge and dogs don’t realise this is water and run onto it then suddenly plunge in.
- Some dogs will enjoy playing with toys in water, and will swim out to fetch these so you need to make sure it’s safe to play like this, and that you have a toy that will float and be visible once floating, plus easy for your dog to hold with their mouth and don’t throw any toys too far.
- It’s important to consider the size and swimming ability of your dog when you are allowing them to get into the water. For example, a fast-moving river might be ok for a larger dog like a Labrador, who is comfortable swimming to enter. However, this might not be suitable for a small dog like a Chihuahua, an older dog, or a dog that is new to swimming.
- Some dogs who suffer with ear infections need to be careful about getting their ears wet, as it can exasperate their issues.
- All dogs should be fully vaccinated when around canals/rivers/lakes as some waterways can be a source of infectious disease.
Blue/green algae is often seen in hot weather, in non-flowing water but it can be seen at any time of year. Although it’s commonly referred to as an algae in fact, it is actually a group of bacteria that has formed into “clumps”. Blooms of the bacteria can build up at the edges of ponds and lakes, making it look foamy and can often be brown in colour as well as blue or green.
The bacteria produce toxins which can stop a dog’s liver from functioning properly.
Not all types of blue green algae are harmful, but you can’t tell from just looking at them – exposure to toxic algae can result in long term health problems for dogs, or even be fatal.
Symptoms of toxicity include:
- Weakness, collapse
- Confusion, unconsciousness
- Breathing problems
To reduce the risk of your dog being poisoned, look out for signs from local councils or environmental agencies around bodies of water which may serve as warnings.
Keep your dog on a lead around water which is known or suspected to have blue-green algal blooms, and do not let your dog drink from them, or swim in them.
If your dog has been swimming anywhere outside, it is sensible to rinse them thoroughly with clean water afterwards, as dogs can indirectly ingest the toxins from their coats when they lick themselves afterwards.
If you suspect your dog has been poisoned, seek veterinary attention immediately. There is no antidote for the toxin, but prompt intervention can improve the chances of survival.