It’s hard to look after our fur babies in this kind of heat, because every dog is different. Some dogs love laying out sunbathing, while other will seek shade. Some will be dying to get out for a walk while others will collapse down in a panting slump and refuse to move another inch.
Because they can’t tell us what they want or need in weather like this, we need to pre-empt their needs and look out for cues from them to help them cope. Here are a few ways you can help you pup enjoy the benefits of the warm weather and protect them from the heat at the same time.
Even in the heat, dogs need exercise and to see beyond your back garden. However walking them in the middle of the day when temperatures are at their hottest isn’t ideal. Timing is everything, so try sticking with the cooler parts of the day for their walks, preferably early morning or later in the evening when things cool down.
Check the pavement
Our dogs paws are sensitive, especially when it’s hot. When we’re walking them, we have to check that the pavement conditions are suitable for them. A handy way to find out if the pavement is too hot is to try the five second test: if it's too hot for your hands to stay on the floor for 5 seconds, then it's too hot for paws! If they are limping or refusing to walk, licking or chewing at the feet, their pads are darker in colour, they’re missing part of a pad or they’re experiencing blisters or redness, then they’ve damaged their paws from walking on hot pavement.
Beware keeping them indoors
Sometimes inside can be shadier than the outdoors, so it can be tempting to keep them in there to keep them out of the sun. But it’s important to be aware of what kind of place you’re keeping them – hot cars, conservatories, outbuildings or caravans on a warm day, even just for a short while can be deadly. Heat can build up in these environments very quickly and can even result in death.
Pet suncream? Sounds a little weird, but apparently it’s a thing and even the RSPCA advises using it: ‘On hot days, use pet safe sun cream on exposed parts of your pets’ skin, such as the tips of their ears and nose, to avoid sunburn. This is especially important if your dog has white or light-coloured fur as they can be very vulnerable to getting burnt. If you're unsure on the right product, please ask your vet.’
You pet should always have access to options to cooling down. Create shade in your back garden with parasols or even a large table that they can find shade under. Always have fresh, cool drinking water available to them by putting ice cubes in their bowl to keep it cold. Some other options are keeping damp towels or wrapped ice packs out for them to lay on and cool down. A paddling pool is also a great idea if you have one on hand!
Large fluffy dogs in particular need lots of grooming during hot weather. The build-up of fur keeps heat trapped so regular brushing relieves the weight and the heat!
Watch out for heatstroke
Heatstroke develops in dogs that cannot reduce their body temperature sufficiently through panting and it can be deadly. Very old and very young dogs are more likely to suffer from it, as well as dogs with thick, heavy coats or dogs with very short flat faces like pugs and bulldog types. Dogs with certain diseases or on some types of medication are also more at risk.
The RSPCA have released advice on what to do if you suspect you dog may have heatstroke:
For the best chance of survival, dogs suffering from heatstroke urgently need to have their body temperature lowered gradually.
Move the dog to a shaded and cool area.
Immediately pour cool (not cold to avoid shock) water over the dog. If possible, you can also use wet towels or place them in the breeze of a fan.
Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water.
Continue to pour cool water over the dog until their breathing starts to settle, but not too much that they start shivering.
Once the dog is cool, take them to the nearest vet as a matter of urgency.