Dr David Marlin’s top tips to help you manage your dog in the heat – a few simple principles can help you keep your pet/s comfortable and safe in the hottest summer months.
AVOIDING the heat is the best approach.
Some basics are:
- Walk in the early morning or late evening
- Reduce activity e.g. keep dogs on leads or avoid ball games, etc
- If your dog is outside it must have access to shade
- Keep dogs inside during the hottest part of the day in a ventilated room (but with the windows shut), with curtains or blinds pulled and ideally with a stone or tiled floor
- Get a mobile AC unit or fan
- Water MUST always be available
- A few ice cubes on their own or in the water bowl will cause no ill effect BUT this will not offer any significant cooling benefit.
- Consider clipping (see below for more information)
- Spray your dog with water from a garden spray, plant sprayer or hose
- Provide a paddling pool
- To keep the house cool, open windows at night and close them in the morning and pull curtains/blinds. Your house is insulated and will keep heat out during the day
If your dog is panting at rest it is not comfortable and is not coping well with the heat and its body is under stress you must take action!
If your dog is at HIGH RISK OF HEASTROKE OR THE CONSEQUENCES OF HEASTROKE and you cannot avoid the heat then you should strongly consider getting them clipped. When I say clipped I don’t mean removing all the coat or clipping it very short.
Those at high risk to heatstroke includes:
- Large dogs
- Dogs with thick coats
- Overweight dogs
- Unfit dogs
- Very active dogs
- Dark coloured dogs
- Old dogs
- Ill dogs
- Dogs with chronic heart or respiratory conditions
- Dogs with upper airway problems
- Brachycephalic breeds
The more of these factors that apply to your dog the higher the risk of heatstroke.
Clipping the coat of some dogs can result in abnormal hair growth and this may affect some breeds more than others. Personally, I’d rather have a dog with abnormal hair growth than one that had suffered permanent health damage from heatstroke or worse.
Making the coat too short could increase the risk of sunburn but NOT heatstroke!
Signs of heatstroke
Learn to recognise the signs of heatstroke
- Faster, heavier panting
- Barking, whining or signs of agitation
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive drooling
- Increased pulse and heartbeat
- Dark-coloured (red or purple) gums or tongue
- Glassy eyes
- Elevated body temperature of 40ºC (104ºF) and up
- Staggering, weakness or collapse
HEATSTROKE is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY and requires IMMEDIATE ACTION and VETERINARY SUPPORT.
Cool your dog by hosing or pouring COLD WATER all over the body or place them in a paddling pool to rapidly reduce temperature and call your vet! (Do don’t leave them unattended in a pool or otherwise in case of collapse.)
This could save your dog’s life. If you attempt to cool with lukewarm/tepid water your dog will be at increased risk!
Clarification on cold water
- Hot Over 40°C
- Warm – 30-40°C
- Lukewarm/Tepid – ~35°C (the definition is variable according to source)
- Cold – 10-20°C
- Ice Cold <5°C