How to

24 May 2017

How to Protect Your Dog from Heat Stress This Summer

As we draw ever nearer to the arrival of summer, marked by the presence of some surprisingly good weather this past week in particular, it is once again time to remind dog owners of the dangers faced by our beloved family pets as temperatures begin to increase. Heat stress and even stroke are major concerns for man’s best friend, and as such properly educating yourself in how to keep them safe is of the utmost importance.

There are multiple reasons as to why the risk of heat-related issues is greater for dogs than it is for us. When temperatures climb to high for our own comfort, we are able to easily move to another area or remove layers of clothing. Dogs don’t tend to have this luxury, as they’re not too handy when it comes to getting through closed doors and their own coat is somewhat attached. Add to this their inability to regulate temperature through sweating as we do, relying instead on their signature pant, and the issues they face soon become apparent.

A survey of vets conducted and published in 2015 revealed that 48% of vets had to treat dogs for heat stroke during the summer months; often a result of a lack of knowledge on the owner’s part. The two main factors stated to lead to heat stroke in dogs are being left in a warm, enclosed environment in which they are unable to either leave or lose heat via panting, and the failure to provide them with enough water to replace fluids lost as a result of panting, which can lead to dehydration.

Of the various situations that may lead to heat-related issues for dogs, two are recognised as the primary cause of potentially-deadly occurrences of heat stroke. The first, as you are likely aware due to countless campaigns aimed at preventing this exact situation each summer, is when thoughtless owners leave their helpless dog sealed in a car. The enclosed space, coupled with the heat-magnifying effect of the glass windows which encircle the vehicle, causes temperatures within to build to a dangerous level. Even when not leaving them alone and remaining with your dog, the potential for disaster is still very much present. To be frank, leaving your dog unattended in a hot car makes you deserving of a good slap in my opinion, considering the harm it does, but precaution should also be taken during travel. Use air-conditioning to keep the car at a cool temperature, and make sure to provide your dog with planet of fresh water, taking breaks from travelling and seeking shade when necessary.

The second situation associated with an increased risk of heat stroke in dogs is vigorous exercise in hot weather. The muscle activity undergone during exercise generates a surprisingly high level of internal heat. Combine this with the heat of the sun and you have a recipe for rapid overheating. With this in mind, it is advised to avoid strenuous exercise in the full heat of the summertime day.

The major indicating sign of heat stroke in dogs is when they flop to the ground, panting heavily in high temperatures. In such cases, action should be taken to cool them down, although you should be wary not to overcool the animal.

This can be achieved in a number of ways. One approach is the simple application of cool water to the body using a hose or sponge and bucket, or even full immersion should their temperature climb excessively. Cold, wet towels or packs of frozen vegetables can also achieve a similar result. You should also provide them with plenty of cool, fresh drinking water.

Following the application of the aforementioned first-aid techniques, a vet should still be consulted. These professionals have access to additional means of cooling and rehydration, and will be able to identify any damage to internal organs resulting from heat stroke.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.