Keeping your dog safe in summer
On a hot day, the temperature inside a vehicle can quickly rise to dangerous levels for pets left inside — even for ‘just a minute.’
Animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes. Beating the heat is extra tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves by panting.
If you see a dog left alone in a hot car, take down the car’s color, model, make, and license plate number. Have the owner paged in the nearest buildings, or call local humane authorities or police. Have someone keep an eye on the dog. Don’t leave the scene until the situation has been resolved.
If the authorities are unresponsive or too slow and the dog’s life appears to be in imminent danger, find a witness (or several) who will back up your assessment, take steps to remove the suffering animal from the car, and then wait for authorities to arrive.
Watch for heatstroke symptoms such as restlessness, excessive thirst, thick saliva, heavy panting, lethargy, lack of appetite, dark tongue, rapid heartbeat, fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and lack of coordination. If a dog shows any of these symptoms, get him or her out of the heat, preferably into an air-conditioned vehicle, and then to a veterinarian immediately. If you are unable to transport the dog yourself, take him or her into an air-conditioned building if possible and call animal control: Tell them it is an emergency.
Keeping your dog safe in summer
Even if you never leave your dog in a hot car, it’s important to be mindful of your dog’s environment on warm days.
There are several types of heat-related illnesses they can get, ranging from heat stress to heat exhaustion, to the most severe — heat stroke.
For both dogs and people, they all happen when the body’s core temperature rises faster than the body can cool it off.
Top tips for keeping your dog cool – and safe – in summer
1. Paddling pool
There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot day for us humans than a dip in the water – and the same goes for your dog. So treat them to a paddling pool in a shady spot in your garden filled with cool but not freezing cold water (that can cause your pet’s body to go into shock on a very hot day). And make sure the paddling pool isn’t filled so high that dogs with little legs are out of their depth and struggle to get out.
While some dogs will dive straight in and splash about, other more water-shy pooches will need more encouragement – but even getting them to stand in the water for a short time is a really effective way of cooling them down rapidly as dogs absorb and release heat through their paws. Keeping their coat wet during any hot spells also provides effective cooling.
2. Cooling mats and ice packs in beds
Dogs tend to gravitate towards cool surfaces when they feel hot, and there are a wide range of specially designed cooling mats for dogs available to buy – these are especially useful if your house doesn’t have any cold stone surfaces for your pet to sprawl themselves out on. Some of the mats work after being cooled in the freezer and others have self-cooling technology. Using freezer blocks or pads, or a frozen plastic bottle of water, well wrapped in a blanket in your dog’s bed will have a similar – and more purse-friendly – effect.
3. Wet, cool towels
Wet your dog’s coat or drench a towel in cool, but not really cold, water and drape it over your dog. This will really help in lowering body temperature and is a crucial step in cooling down a dog suffering from heatstroke before getting them to the vets. But ensure you do not leave these over your dog for long periods as once the towel warms up, it will no longer cool your dog down – and can make them even hotter.
4. Cooling coats and collars
You can buy specially-made cooling coats for your dog, which can provide longer-lasting coolness. These are activated with water - as the moisture in the coat evaporates, it draws out the heat from the dog's body and cools them down. A variety of cooling collars are also availible - some contain a special self-cooling gel and others need to be filled with ice or placed in the freezer. But wetting a standard kitchen cloth and popping it in the freezer, or wrapping ice cubes inside, will do a very similar job – it just won’t look quite as stylish!
5. Ice treats
Make ice cubes or lollies with your dog’s favourite treat inside, or stuff a Kong and pop it into the freezer. You could also fill a bowl with some low-salt stock scattered with a few treats and freeze it – or even throw in a toy or two, adding enrichment for your pet while cooling them down. Frozen carrots or apple slices are also a tasty – but healthy – snack to refresh your pet on a hot day.
6. Get a fan
Place a fan next to your dog’s usual lounging spot, and give them an extra cooling breeze by putting some frozen water bottles in front of it.
7. Cool toys
If your dog always has a toy in their mouth, then pop their favourite one in the freezer for a quick cooling fix. If your pet isn’t one to chew their way through toys, filling an old sock with rice and freezing it is also a good way of getting your dog to keep something cool in their mouth.
8. Garden sprinklers and water mists
Filling a spray bottle with cool water and misting your dog regularly will help keep body temperatures down, as will a garden sprinkler – if you can get your dog to walk through it!
9. Walk them at sensible times of the day
Make sure you exercise your dog at cooler times of the day, either first thing in the morning or early evening – even better, if it passes by a dog-friendly swimming spot along the way. If your dog is very active then you may need to limit exercise and play – don’t expect an excited dog to notice early signs of heat stroke. Taking them for a walk in the strong midday sun on a hot day can be dangerous, and this can also put your dog at risk of burning their paws on hot pavements. As a general rule, if it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your pooch’s paws. If your dog is one that needs a long walk to burn off excess energy, find other ways to stimulate them instead – such as practising some training techniques or playing brain games with them. Keep in the shade as much as possible and provide shady spots in the garden too.
10. Keep them hydrated
It may sound like common sense, but make sure your dog always has access to fresh, cool water – including when you are out on a walk with them. Anything that encourages them to drink is a good idea, such as putting iced treats in their water bowl. If they’re spending lots of time outside, then make sure there’s also a water bowl filled with cool water out of direct sunlight in the garden.
HEATSTROKE IN DOGS – KNOW THE SIGNS AND HOW TO PREVENT IT
Heatstroke can be fatal and requires urgent veterinary attention
Use the tips above to prevent your dog from overheating and avoid any stress for them
But continue to watch your pet for signs of over-heating, including heavy panting and loss of energy. If you recognise these signs when on a walk, stop, find a shady spot, give your dog water and wet the coat. Contact your vet immediately.
Never leave your dog (or any pet) alone in a car, even with the windows open – and alert call 999 right away if you see a dog trapped in a car on a hot day
Be particularly careful with short nosed dogs such as bull breeds, boxers, pugs, older dogs, and those that are overweight. These dogs can get heatstroke simply by running around.
Heatstroke can result in collapse, excessive panting, purple gums and redness of the skin – if this happens, give water, wet the coat or cool your dog with a wet towel and contact your vet immediately.
Read more about keeping your dog safe in summer here.