Keeping Dogs Cool During Summer

Summer is well and truly with us, and as I write we are experiencing a mini heat wave in the UK. It's even dry during Wimbledon.

My old girl Amber used to know the phrase 'In the shade', and she would go to a cool spot and stay there when hot (quite sensible I thought!). Little Pip the Border terrier however knows nothing of common sense and will stay in the intense sun until she is near to meltdown. As a result I keep her in the shade or in a well-ventilated cool room.

Free access to water is of course essential for both man and dog in this weather so do be sure to keep the dog well watered. Just plain clean tap water is sufficient. Dogs are lactose intolerant, so no milk and so on.

If it's too hot for you to walk bare foot on the pavement (for example) then it'll be too hot for your dog too! Avoid exercising your dog at peak sun hours and go for early morning late evening walks. Take a water bottle and possibly a collapsible water bowl too for regular water stops.

Be on the alert for heat stroke. I have seen the opposite whereby my ol' girl Amber once went into hypothermia when walking in freezing rain on a Lake District peak with me. She should have had a Gore Tex kit like what I did ;) Hyperthermia is the excess of heat build up and equally as dangerous for a dog. Early signs of this might include rapid breathing, heavy panting, and salivation. Also fatigue tremors, and staggering. If you see this and feel concerned, get the dog into shade naturally and apply wet towels if possible. Offer small amounts of water and call your vet (always carry that number with you). At worse I would be prepared to dial 999, or 118247 in the UK and they can put you through to a nearest vet if you're away from home.

Did you know that for your own safety you can insert an entry in your mobile phone under ICE-name (In Case of Emergency) and then the number you'd like the emergency services to call if you're out of action or involved in an accident?

Watch out for sunburn! Pale or white dogs and those with very short coat can suffer on the nose and back. I have often placed a dob of lotion of my dog's nose and rubbed it in past the licking point! Sprays or aerosols are good along the back too if the coat is short enough for the sun to hit the skin on the back. On the beach all day? Dig down to a cool level or provide a small pop up tent!

Certain breeds may be more susceptible to the heat too. Such breeds would include the boxer, bulldogs, pugs, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus and so on. These breeds have a job breathing at the best of times, so be careful in the extra heat. Dogs with heavy coats such as the Old English and so on should be clipped out nicely to allow a cooler summer. I love the idea of a longhaired Shepherd for myself, but these dense coats put me off thinking about how to keep the dog cool at times. I would (funds allowing) consider an air-conditioned environment for such a thick-coated dog.

Dogs that carry an excess of weight can feel the heat too, so be kind and keep your dog trim :)

Dogs in cars. You would be shocked how quickly the temperature rises when a car is parked up (even with the windows down a little). This is just a bad idea full stop. Don't do it. The dog should only be in the car when with you, and with the air con on. I often place the car in the shade at home prior to going out with the dog, and leave it running air con on full blast to get a nice starting temperature.

I admit that I obsess a little about keeping things cool or warm accordingly, but remember your dog can't talk, so it pays to go the extra mile. Imagine what it must be like with a coat on too. Going back to the car situation, I did an exercise for my local radio station a couple of years back as it was an article surrounding leaving dogs in cars in connection to a local game fayre. Thankfully I keep the notes in a file (quicker to find than on my PC!) and here are the notes I made whilst in the car:

I started with the car in direct sunlight with the air conditioning on to begin with. I wore shorts and a t-shirt. To begin with the temperature in the car was 25 Celsius. I had a small thermometer with me to keep record.

I then wound the windows up and the engine was turned off. Within four minutes the temp had raised to 33 degrees Celsius! It was already feeling very warm and 'like an oven' quoting my notes.

Another six minutes on and the temperature had hit 37 degrees (99 Far.) I was at that time running with sweat.

After a full 15 minutes the car was 40 degrees Celsius inside (105 Far.) and I was gasping...I had to get out of the car. Imagine Fido that maybe be already warmed up after a dog walk/run and you then repeat this by dropping into Tesco on the way home. Please be careful!! Dogs regularly die this way.

Otherwise enjoy the summer folks with some walks focused on clean streams and edges of rivers. Remember to keep well hydrated yourself and enjoy the moment.

Nick Jones MCFBA

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