Alison Laurie-Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness
Sadly, we still see cases of heatstroke in dogs during the summer months. It is not uncommon for a severe case of heatstroke to result in the tragic loss of a beloved pet.
The symptoms of heat stroke are: panting excessively, an extreme thirst, salivating, vomiting, restlessness, a bright red tongue, very red gums or pale gums, increased heart rate, distressed breathing and collapse.
With sensible precautions this situation is avoidable, so here are some simple tips on how to keep your dog cool, comfortable and healthy this summer.
Make sure you're prepared for the summer heat by buying a fan or two to keep the air cooler and circulating in your house.
Leave some windows open so that fresh air freely flows around your pet.
Avoid leaving your dog in a hot sun trap such as a shed, conservatory, greenhouse, car or tent.
Never ever leave your dog in a parked car on a hot day, not even for a minute or two, regardless of whether you open any windows. Cars in particular can overheat very quickly and can then become death traps for your pet.
Make sure your pet always has access to a cool, shaded place to lie in if they are outside in your garden.
Leave a bowl full of cool water out for your dog to drink from. You can add a few ice cubes initially to cool the water down, but do avoid making the water too cold for them to drink comfortably. Filling up with fresh cool water as often as possible is a good idea.
Invest in a "cool mat" for your pet to lie on.
Restrict any outdoor exercise in the heat. Make sure they don’t play outside for too long, allowing plenty of breaks. Control their exercise by walking them early in the morning or later in the evening, at dawn and dusk, avoiding the hottest part of the day.
Always take some water for them to drink when out on any walks, ideally in a container that will stay cool.
Avoid long car journeys wherever possible. If you do have to take your dog on a journey, keep them cool with the air-conditioning on, or by keeping plenty windows open. Always allow access to plenty of water and arrange for regular "comfort" and fresh air breaks.
Putting on a loose, light, wetted T-shirt on your dog is an ideal way of helping them cool off. Keep it wet throughout the heat of the day removing it when indoors and at night. A wet towel can also be used to cool them down.
Spray or hose them down gently with cool, but not cold, water, or gently pour a cup of cool water along their back from top of neck down to their tail-head.
Provide a sturdy paddling pool, or, if you have access to a safe stream pool or pond, take them for a safe, monitored swim. Do be mindful of the actual water temperature though, especially in the late summer months. It takes the water a lot longer to warm up than it does the surrounding air. If the water is too cold it could cause your dog to become hypothermic, or the sudden cold temperature can cause shock, stomach cramps and abdominal discomfort. So always test the water temperature yourself first before allowing your dog to swim outdoors.
Watch also at the beach that your pet is not over heated while playing and discourage him from drinking sea water.
Long-haired heavily coated dogs are more likely to be affected by the heat, so it’s a good idea to get your dog's coat trimmed and thinned out come the summer months.
Make sure your dog has stopped panting and is settled and relaxed before feeding him after any exercise. It will be much healthier for him to eat a meal when he isn’t panting and stressed.
These are a few sensible tips to follow to keep your pet cool, comfortable and healthy in the summer months.
If you are at all concerned about your pet and you think they may have been a situation where they have overheated and have any symptoms of heat stroke, then do contact us immediately, this is an emergency situation and does need urgent attention.