The number of dogs being rescued from locked cars in sizzling summer temperatures is making headline news but dogs can suffer heat exhaustion even after exercise on a hot day. During the summer months, you should be extra vigilant, and keep a watchful eye out for signs such as panting heavily, salivating and appearing distressed. Short-nosed dogs (e.g. boxers, pugs), older and overweight dogs are particularly susceptible to getting overheated and out of breath when exercising. Dogs lose heat by sweating from their nose and paws and by panting. Because they have no other way of cooling themselves down, they are highly susceptible to overheating. Also – be aware that, if they are walking on hot tarmac, their paws will get very hot which will make it harder for them to maintain a normal body temperature.
Signs and symptoms of overheating:
Rapid, heavy panting
Fast, weak pulse
Raised body temperature
Heat exhaustion occurs when their temperature rises over 39.3°C and heat stroke over 41°C.
Heat stroke is a serious medical emergency which requires urgent veterinary help.
Some top tips to help prevent heat exhaustion
First of all, the most important thing to do is to try your hardest to not let them get heat exhaustion in the first place. To do this:
Make sure your dog has access to clean water at all times. Carry water and a bowl with you on walks. There are now small, collapsible bowls you can buy, that make carrying one with you at all times even easier
Remember to have fresh water accessible on the beach too, as drinking sea water will dehydrate them further and make them ill
On hot days, avoid the midday sun and walk your dog during the cooler parts of the day – in the early morning and late evening
Watch your pet for signs of overheating, including heavy panting and loss of energy. If necessary, stop, find a shady spot and give your dog water
Never leave your dog (or any pet or child) alone in a car, even with the windows open. Cars can get hot extremely quickly. Also – make sure you keep an eye on where the sunshine is coming in to the car. If your dog is in the boot and the sun is streaming in, they can still overheat, especially if you get stuck in a long traffic jam.
Get urgent veterinary advice
Pour tepid water gently all over the dog and, if available, position near a fan to aid cooling
Never immerse the dog in icy water as this could put them into shock
Ensure they have easy access to drinking water
Transport the dog to the vet with the car windows open and/or put on the air conditioning on.