Hot weather and high humidity can be dangerous for our dogs. During summer, our pets are at increased risk of sunburn, dehydration, and heat stroke.
Prevention is always better than cure. That’s why our Vet Ambassador, Dr Gareth Dunkerley, has shared these top tips for keeping your dog happy and safe during the hot summer months.
1) Hydrate often with fresh, cool water.
Dogs don’t sweat. They cool down by panting, lying on cool surfaces and drinking plenty of cool water.
Make sure they always have fresh, cool water available, especially on hotter days and after walks. It’s a good idea to have several bowls of water accessible in case the others get knocked over. You can also add a few ice cubes to keep the water cool. Take a water bottle for your dog on walks and when travelling in the car.
2) Provide day-long shade and reduce time in the sun or kennels.
Whether you’re at home or out for the day, provide plenty of opportunities for your dog to relax in the shade. The sun moves during the day so ensure they have protection from all aspects.
Sadly, pets can suffer from heat stroke or even die in their own backyard. Kennels or dog houses are not well ventilated – they quickly become hot and make matters worse. During a heatwave, bring your dog inside with the aircon on to give them respite from the blazing sun.
3) Doggy paddle safely.
Many dogs love a good swim, and it’s a great way for them to cool off. But not all dogs know how to. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard pool, make sure it’s fenced and your dog’s a good swimmer. You can teach them to swim at the edge of the pool where the stairs are.
If you don’t have a pool, a small paddling pool with shallow water is a good alternative. Your dog can practice paddling and they just love just lying in them to cool off – bliss!
If your dog’s a confident swimmer and enjoys an ocean dip, pack some old towels when you go to the beach. To avoid hotspots, make sure their coat doesn’t become dirty or matted by giving them a lukewarm bath when they get home. Don’t forget to apply conditioner after shampoo. Conditioner acts like a moisturiser, closing the hair shaft (which protect the hair) and replenishing the skin’s moisture, preventing it from drying out and becoming itchy. Use gentle dog-friendly shampoos and conditions like the smith&burton Conditioner collection then dry off the excess water with a towel and let them air-dry naturally.
4) Even if you’re not going far, never leave them in the car.
Animal welfare agencies receive hundreds of distress calls each year about animals (usually dogs) being left in cars in the heat. Never leave your dog in the car alone, even for a few minutes and with the windows rolled down. The temperature can quickly rise to an unbearable heat, and your dog can suffer brain damage or death. To avoid this heartache, please leave your dog at home.
5) Twilight strolls
The best time to walk your dog is at sunrise or sunset to prevent sunburn or heat stroke. Paw pads can burn easily, so apply balm like smith&burton Heal & Protect Soothe Balm, avoid hot concrete, and stick to grassy areas. Remember that black sand can get intensely hot too. Whenever you head out for a walk, always be aware of the power of the summer sun and the awful effects the heat can have on your dog. Always carry a water bottle and bowl with you to prevent dehydration, too. To skip the hassle of carrying a bowl with you all the time, teaching your dog to drink straight from a sipper-lid water bottle is a handy tip.
6) Slip, slop, slap & wrap
Especially if your dog has a thin coat, has non-pigmented skin or loves lying on their back to catch the rays, the risk of sunburn is high, so carry and apply sunburn. Choose lick-safe products and avoid any with zinc oxide, which is toxic to pets. Children’s sunblocks are generally safe for dogs. Or you can get products specifically designed for dogs – check that they actually have SPF.
If your dog loves to imitate your sunbathing posture, be especially vigilant around their inguinal area, which is the exposed stretch of skin where their belly and hind legs meet. Test the sunblock on a patch of your pup’s skin for allergies before applying it all over. You can also slip on an old t-shirt or buy them a sunsuit for days at the beach.
7) Looking good and smelling sweet.
For long-haired breeds, make sure you keep their coat well-groomed and at a good length – short enough to be free from mats and tangles, but long enough to protect their skin against insect bites. Spray long-coated breeds before they go for an ocean swim with smith&burton Detangler Spray & Leave-in Conditioner to help prevent mats and tangles from forming.
Summer can cause dogs to become smellier thanks to the perfect storm of higher temperatures and rolling or treading in things that smell worse in the heat. If your dog smells more pungent during summer, you can bathe them more regularly and finish with a lighted scented coat deodoriser and cologne that’s free of irritants like smith&burton’s Cologne Collection.
8) Flat face breeds are more at risk of heat stress.
Flat face breeds like pugs, boxers, bulldogs, terriers, and Cavalier King Charles spaniels are far more prone to heat stress because their shortened airways make panting less effective. The weather doesn’t even have to be that hot for these breeds to develop heat stress. Be extra cautious if your dog is one of these breeds and vigilant to any sign of heat stress.
Frozen treats are a delicious and fun way to cool your dog down and keep them occupied. You can make your own with different flavours to see what they enjoy most or buy ready-made varieties from some pet stores.
10) When things go wrong. The signs of heat stroke and what to do.
If you follow the tips above, you significantly reduce the risk of sunburn, heat stress and heat stroke.
Heat stroke, also known as sun stroke, can be very serious and cause irreparable damage to your dog’s nerves and organs and even lead to death. It’s vital you know what to look out for so you can act quickly.
Common signs of heat stroke include:
- nonstop panting (increases as heatstroke progresses)
- agitation and restlessness
- gums that are either very red or pale. Bright red tongue.
- increased heart rate and breathing distress
- vomiting, diarrhoea (possibly with blood)
- looking confused/delirious
- dizziness, staggering
- lethargy and weakness
- muscle tremors and seizures
- collapsing and lying down
- producing little or no urine
If you notice any of these signs or suspect heat stroke, you need to do the following without delay.
Start emergency first aid to help regulate your pet’s body temperature.
Spray cool water onto their fur or skin, and then fan them. Don’t use ice-cold water or ice as this may make the problem worse. Wetting the area around your pet can also help.
Take them to your nearest vet immediately. Heatstroke is life-threatening.
Even if your dog looks like they are getting better, always get them checked out by your vet. Act with caution, as heat stroke can lead to organ damage later.
Stay safe and enjoy summer
A little bit of preparation goes a long way and will keep you and your dog happy and safe this summer. Here’s to many walks on the beach, ocean swims and delicious treats!