Dogs die on hot walks
Dogs should have regular exercise and involving them in your outings and family fun is expected but when the weather gets hot there are some considerations and practical steps that we must take to ensure our dog's health and welfare are protected. If the weather is warm, exercise can be too much for our dogs.
It's not unusual for dogs to need vet care for heat-related illnesses after exercise. In fact, it affects 10 times more dogs than those overheating in cars.
Many of us are aware of the dangers of leaving your dog in a car on a warm day. Exercising your dog in hot weather could also cause them just as much harm.
When does 'hot' become 'too hot'?
When dogs get hot, they pant to cool down. They'll also drink more, seek out shade or even jump into water if there's some nearby.
But if it's too hot these cooling actions don't always work. Or perhaps they just can't escape the heat? Then the dog's body temperature can begin to rise. Above a certain point, they will quickly start to develop heat-related illnesses - which can kill them.
Heat exhaustion through exercise is prevalent in dogs and can sadly lead to loss of life. When going to an outdoor event in the summer it's important that you check out the venue first, ensure that they accept dogs and secondly have thought about dogs and their needs.
For a dog to stay cool their will need to be:
Cool substrate such as grass to walk on
But ultimately if it's too hot none of this will matter and your dog will be safer at home.
Heatstroke isn't just a summer problem
It doesn't have to be hot - or even warm - weather for your dog to be affected. After a cold winter, dogs can take weeks to get used to warmer spring weather. And if your dog has a health condition, they could overheat even when it's quite cool.
What are the signs of heatstroke?
But you can spot signs of overheating before it becomes harmful. You know your dog better than anyone.
- Are they breathing more heavily than usual?
- Do they have less energy?
- Are they less playful than normal?
- Are they panting more?
- Are they stumbling or laying down?
If so, they could be starting to get too hot. Stop moving, give them water and find shade. Keep an eye on them until they're recovered. If they get worse, follow our emergency first aid advice at once.
Check to see if it's too hot for your dog
When you are out the weather does not have to be very hot so it's important to be aware. Always check the pavement with the back of your hand, you don't want burned paws. Keep watching your dog, perhaps you are playing ball, running or simply out for a stroll, by knowing the signs and acting quickly you could save their life.
What are the signs?
Heavy panting and difficulty breathing
The dog appears lethargic, drowsy or uncoordinated
Collapsed or vomiting
Some dogs cope better with hot conditions than others - just like people. When it's really hot, any dog can be affected. But these dogs are more likely to react badly to exercise, even when it's cool:
Dogs with breathing issues
Dogs with breathing issues can find it harder to pant. Flat-faced (brachycephalic) dogs, such as pugs or bulldogs, often have trouble breathing. As do dogs with heart problems or respiratory disease.
Dogs with thick coats
Dogs lose heat through their bodies. This is harder if they have thick coats or are wearing doggy clothes.
Unfit or overweight dogs
Dogs who aren't very active or are carrying excess weight will cool down more slowly. Likewise if they are dehydrated, injured or unwell they could struggle when exercising.
If your dog is unwell or develops a new cough or noise when breathing, avoid exercise and speak to your vet. If they have an underlying condition, think about staying at home. Or take slow, short, shady walks, and keep a close eye on them. Early morning or evening walks are safest, as it's cooler.
Share our #DogsDieOnHotWalks campaign
Help us raise awareness of the dangers of dogs overheating during exercise. You may just save a dog's life.
Information contributors: Emily Hall, Lecturer in Veterinary Education, Royal Veterinary College, Dr Anne Carter, Senior Lecturer in Animal Biology, Nottingham Trent University and Dr Dan O'Neill, Associate Professor Companion Animal Epidemiology, Royal Veterinary College.