Summer is a glorious time of year. Beautiful weather gets us outdoors and active. Be it walks on the beach, camping or even more adventurous sports we often bring our dogs along with us to join in with the fun.
However the heat can have some serious effects on our pets as they are less able to get rid of extra heat compared to people. We have lots of sweat glands but dogs actually have a limited number, mainly limited to their feet. The furry coat which whilst it protects dogs from the elements also acts as an insulating layer trapping heat against the body. I would compare it to wearing a jumper in January to the beach!
When dogs get too hot they can suffer a potentially life threatening condition called heat stroke. This is when the body overheats and is unable to bring the temperature down using their normal cooling mechanisms.
Heat stroke is an emergency as left untreated it can lead to seizures, brain damage and death.
Signs to look out for include:
Excessive or non-stop panting
Drooling or salivating
Bright red gums
Ataxia (loss of balance).
If you see these signs head immediately to your nearest veterinary clinic. The treatment includes active cooling with intra-venous fluid therapy, cool mats, fans and water blankets. It can take up to 48 hours to correct the signs of heat stroke and constant monitoring is needed for these patients.
Therefore as pet owners, we must be very aware of the temperature when having our pets join in the summer fun.
Leaving pets in cars, is not recommended. Cars heat up very quickly and it can be only a matter of minutes before the signs of heat stroke start to be seen.
Please never leave your pet in the car, instead either leave them at home if you need to make a quick trip or take a helper with you and have them sit with your dog outside in the shade whilst you run errands. You may even find yourself at breach of The Dog Control Act (1996) if someone reports you for leaving your pet in the car, the penalty for which stands at up to $5,000.
If you see a dog in a car on a hot day showing signs of heat stroke we recommend calling the local council, SPCA or the police.
When considering going for a walk, try going before the day heats up, either early in the morning or later in the evening after the heat of the day has died down.
Before setting off, touch the tarmac or sand with your hands and if it’s too hot to leave it there for 3-5 seconds then it’s too hot for your dog to walk on.
If your dog is used to going for hard exercise such as strenuous running you may want to try and mix it up a bit with some brain games such as frozen puzzle toys or scent challenges to get the same mental workout without the risk of heatstroke.
Make sure your pet has access to shade when in the back garden or when you are out and about. Shade is one of the best ways dogs have to cool down and they will actively seek out shade to lie in. If you don’t have natural shade from trees or buildings, try putting up a parasol or a shade sail.
Always have a water supply for your dog when out and about. Keep a water bottle with you and if you see any water sources along the way stop and let your dog have the opportunity for a drink.
Keeping hydrated is essential on a hot day! Cool water also helps to keep that core temperature down.
Frozen treats such as carrots in ice blocks or flavoured ice blocks floating in the drinking water can be a great way to help pets cool down. We have even seen owners create homemade doggy ice lollies! Tasty and help the cooling process.
If your dog enjoys being in the garden, try a paddling pool with some water or a garden sprinkler. This is both fun and functional and your dog can choose when they need the water to help cool off. Remember to change the water regularly if using a paddling pool.
Remember that pets need sunblock too! White skin and delicate skin around the nose is especially prone to burning and repeat burns can lead to skin cancer, just like in people. Apply sunblock daily to protect your pet. There are many forms available both creams and powders so try both and see what works best for you.
Finally check your microchip details are up to date. If you’re pet goes missing and is admitted to a veterinary clinic or picked up by the council, having correct microchip details such as a mobile number will reunite you much faster.