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Tips to keep your dog cool during the summer months

Updated: Jul 16, 2022

Heat stroke is very common in dogs and is fatal without veterinary intervention. How do we know what dogs are likely to suffer from heatstroke and how can we prevent something like this? What are the signs?

Temperatures below 20°C are generally fine but avoid prolonged exercise for those really young, old or vulnerable (flat-nosed/overweight/health conditions) just in case. Anything between 20-23°C is starting to become a high risk factor for the type of dogs stated above. As a dog walker I don't walk these breed when it gets above 23°C and keep a close eye on them during this time. Other dogs who may suffer during this time are excitable/energetic dogs, heavy coated dogs like German shephards and huskies or darker coloured breeds. At these temperatures aim to walk your dog in cooler times and ensure plenty of water is avaliable.

I don't tend to walk dogs in temperatures exceeding 25°C as all dogs can begin to suffer in this heat.

Ensuring our dog stays cool in the heat is vital regardless of temperature, below is just a few tips on keeping our dogs cool;

  • Provide water at all times

  • Provide a pool or source of water for them to dip into if they wish

  • Cool mats or cool pads as well as well towels can assist with keeping our dogs cool

  • Avoid prolonged or high levels of exercise - ditch the walks 🚶‍♂️ a dog won't die from a missed walk but will die of heatstroke. This includes high exercise in your garden!

  • Provide plenty of shade whether indoors or outdoors

  • Provide frozen treats or food enrichment, examples can be frozen vegetables (great for puppy teething) such as carrots or brocoli, frozen kongs, frozen stuffed bones

  • Ice cubes are perfectly fine to give to your dog or frozen meat/fruit cubes or even raw/wet food frozen in ice cube trays.

  • Keep with mental enrichment - sniffing and scent work can enrich your dog just as much as a walk - 20minutes of scent work = 1 hour walk in enrichment. Hide items with food around the house, scatter feed, provide puzzle toys, snuffle mats and more

  • Practice some training exercises. What a better time to do some training. Ideas in the book '101 dog tricks' is great for some summer tricks and training

  • Splash some cool water around their neck/chest area where the blood flows closest to the skin and can help remove heat

  • Keep an eye on signs of heatstroke. If your worried, call your vet!

  • Avoid pavements, these can heat quickly and burn dogs pads, place your hand on the surface for 10seconds. If its too hot to do so, too hot for your dog.

Signs of heatstroke in dogs can vary between breeds but the general rule;

  • Excessive panting and/or drooling

  • Lethargy (more than expected!)

  • Vomiting

  • High respiration and/or heart rate

  • Cloudy eyes

  • Skin pinch test is slow

  • Collapsing

To test for dehydration, pinch a small part of your dogs skin, then let it go, it should only take a few seconds to bounce back! If it doesn't then ensure your dog has a good drink and keep an eye on them. This can be indicate dehydration.

Respiration rate is measured by number of breaths your dog does in 15 seconds x 4. Normal value should be between 18-34 per minute (5-8per 15sec).

Heart rate can be taken on the inside of the thigh leg, hold your hand there for 15second, counting their pulse rate and x4. A normal dogs resting heart rate is between 70-120bpm (18-30 per 15s).

For those who own a thermometer for your dog, insert it into your dog anal region for 5-10 seconds. A normal dogs temperature is between 37.9°-39.9°C. Above 40°C is overheating/heatstroke risk!

With my own clients I have a rule for temperatures above 20°C to be wary for vulnerable breeds and young puppies and older dogs. This is keeping them in shade, limiting too much exercise, plenty of water and reducing walk times. Above 23°C these are not walked and other dogs are subject to the above conditions. Anything above 25°C dogs are not walked and training clients are subject to individual circumstances.

Very hot temperatures such as 25-30+°C dogs are not trained on walks and either work is done in shade outside, inside or cancelled altogether depending on dog involved.

Lyndsey Hooper

Pawsome Training and Behaviour

BSc Honours and MRes Animal Behaviour and Welfare

Dog Training College Approved Dog Trainer

Pet Professional Network

Pet Industry Federation

Pet Professional Guild

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