Keeping Your Dogs Safe In Hot Weather Conditions
With the warmth of Summer increasing day by day, we've asked Arun Veterinary Group to offer some advice on how to help keep your dog safe & cool in the coming months.
Summer can be a tough time though for our dogs if we have a heatwave. Many of us have seen reports on the news about situations where dogs have been left in hot cars, but do you know just how hot a car can get? The RSPCA explains that in an hour, the temperature inside a car can reach a staggering 47 degrees c, but that’s when the environmental temperature outside is ONLY 22 degrees c - a mild summer day.
It doesn’t bear thinking about the conditions inside a car on a hot day (see the end of this article for advice on what to do if you see a dog in a car on a hot day). It’s not just cars though, caravans, conservatories, even poorly ventilated outbuildings can become death traps on hot days.
Other episodes of heatstroke can be caused by a combination of heat and exertion. Did you know that dogs can take up to 60 days to acclimatise to a warmer or more humid climate? A lunchtime walk on a mild day will feel very different to your dog than the next day’s lunchtime walk if it’s the first hot day of summer - and that’s without including any exertion like a few games of fetch with her favourite tennis ball.
A dog will start to suffer from heatstroke in a warm environment when it is no longer able to control its own body temperature as it begins to rise. As they can only sweat through their paws and around their noses dogs find it much harder to cool down than we do. They have only one more way of trying to keep cool which is by panting.
Some dogs are more susceptible to being affected by an overly warm environment - brachycephalic breeds (short-nosed dogs such as French Bulldogs and Pugs), overweight dogs, thick-coated dogs and those with heart conditions or respiratory problems may really struggle to cope - BUT do be aware that young healthy and fit dogs do also suffer from heatstroke.
If you suspect your dog may have heatstroke please ring us or your local vet immediately so that we can be prepared to attend to your dog as soon as you arrive. If you're registered with the Arun Veterinary Group, remember we have veterinary staff on site at the Storrington hospital 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This will extend to Chichester this Summer when our second 24 hour hospital opens.
Signs of heatstroke:
- Very rapid breathing, usually panting
- Signs of distress such as agitation and vocalising
- Excessive salivating (or drooling)
- Desperate to drink
- Rapid pulse & heart rate
- Gums (if seen) will become dark red or purple in colour
- Weak, staggering
- Tremors or seizures
- Collapse & non-responsive
- Your dog may show some or all of these symptoms and they are likely to get progressively worse as time passes. If left untreated the dog may develop damage to the central nervous system, collapse and the outcome can be fatal.
- Don’t panic - if you don't remember the following steps to take at the scene ring us and we will talk you through them
- Do try to keep calm, in this way your dog is more likely to remain calm too.
- Do remove the dog from the hot place immediately
- Do ensure that the dog is moved to a well ventilated, shaded area
- Do allow your dog water to drink (from the cold tap but NOT chilled) - small amounts often
- Do bath your dog in tepid water, or gently hose down with tepid water. A fan blowing towards her will help too.
- DO NOT use cold water, ice or throw buckets of cold water on your dog in an attempt to cool her down. The rapid reduction in temperature on the dogs’ body will cause the blood vessels near the surface to contract . This impairs the cooling down process but also traps hot blood in the dogs core with the potential to cause damage to the major organs. Having cold water thrown onto her is also a surprise which your dog is unlikely to appreciate.
- DO NOT leave wet towels covering your dog. It seems like a sensible thing to do but the towel will quickly warm up from the heat radiating from the dog - a bit like putting a towel on a radiator to dry. A warm air layer then gets trapped under the towel and keeps the dog warm, so the towel in effect becomes an insulating layer and the dog’s temperature could even continue to rise.
- Do drive to the surgery with the car windows lowered to create a cool breeze or the air conditioning onto cool the car.
- DO NOT delay in getting to us - even when the dog has been moved to a cooler environment her temperature may still be rising - she will still be in danger.
At the surgery:
Treatment protocols will depend on the severity of the symptoms, how long the dog has been exposed to a high temperature for and other factors including the general health of your dog and whether she has any pre-existing medical conditions. Your dog will be admitted to the hospital where intravenous fluid therapy will be started, she will be closely monitored and observed and blood tests may be run.
Treatment will initially focus on reducing the body temperature to a normal level in a careful and controlled way. Cooling the body too rapidly will cause the bodies’ thermoregulatory system to over-compensate and the dog can then become hypothermic - which comes with its own set of problems. Other therapies and medications may be necessary to address the complications which can occur when the body temperature becomes abnormally high.
Remember… if in doubt please call us - the sooner your dog can receive treatment the better the chances of making a full recovery
What should you do if you come across a dog in a car on a hot day?
This is the advice from the RSPCA:
“In an emergency, it is best to dial 999 and report a dog in a hot car to police. We may not be able to attend quickly enough and, with no powers of entry, we’d need police assistance for such an incident.
If the animal is displaying any sign of heatstroke - such as panting heavily, drooling excessively, is lethargic or uncoordinated, or collapsed and vomiting - call 999 immediately.
Many people’s instinct is to break into the car to free the dog. But please be aware that, without proper justification, this could be classed as criminal damage.
Make sure you tell the police of your intentions and take photos or footage of the dog as well as names and numbers of witnesses. You have a lawful excuse to commit damage if you believe that the owner of the property would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances.
Once removed from the car, move the dog to a cool area and gently douse him/her with cool water. Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water.
If the dog isn’t displaying signs of heatstroke, try to establish how long the dog has been in the car and make a note of the registration. Try nearby shops and ask staff to make an announcement of the situation over the tannoy, if possible, making sure to get someone to stay with the dog to monitor its condition."