Heatstroke in dogs can happen quickly and is very dangerous. Help avoid the risk by keeping your dog cool in hot weather and swapping out regular walks for mental and physical activities at home. Even temperatures from 17 degrees centigrade upwards can be too hot for our dogs. Here are 9 tips to help keep your dog cool in a heatwave.
If in doubt, don’t take them out
The most important tip in hot weather is to avoid your dog getting too hot in the first place. This means not walking them when it is warm. Even temperatures that feel OK to us can be far too hot for dogs.
You might want to get up really early or walk them late in the evening. But pavements can retain a lot of heat. If you can’t stand comfortably in bare feet for at least 10 seconds, the surface is too hot for your dog’s paws!
Stick to the shade
Some dogs love to lay in the sun but make sure they have plenty of shade available. Some dogs even need encouragement to get out of the sun into somewhere cooler.
Move their bed or normal sleeping spot out of direct sunlight if you need to. If you have a fan, try placing bottles that are partially filled with water and frozen in front of the fan to create homemade air conditioning.
There are all sorts of cooling products including mats, bandanas and jackets if your dog is happy wearing or laying on them.
Help them stay hydrated
Dogs will often want to eat less when it’s warm, this is quite normal. But you do need to make sure they stay hydrated enough.
Keep changing water bowls for fresh, cool, clean water. You can even pop in an ice cube or two. Some dogs like to crunch on the odd ice cube, this is fine. Please always ensure that the ice cubes are sized appropriately for your dog to avoid the risk of choking.
Does your dog like fruit and veggies? Chilled or frozen watermelon or apple slices or carrot sticks could make a cooling and hydrating change.
Play games indoors
Swap walks for activities to do at home. Here are just a few suggestions to try:
Treasure trail – hide some treats or a toy inside or in a shady garden. Start simple and help them ‘find it’ if you need to. You can increase the difficulty as they get better at the game.
Make a homemade ‘snuffle mat’ by scattering some of your dog’s food on an old towel and scrunch up so that the food is nestling in the folds of the towel. Release your dog to the towel to forage for their breakfast or dinner.
Working through the basics of Sit – Down – Stand – Down – Sit. Mix up the order of the cues; dogs are often predicting what they think we want, or they want to do rather than listening to the verbal (or visual) cues. When that’s too easy, add in other tricks, like left and right spins. These are all great for a full-body workout without chasing around. Again, keep the repetitions low.
Keep activities short
In hot weather, avoid long periods of high-energy games like running, chase or tug. Think about games that use their nose and their brain for an effective mind and body workout without overheating.
Playing training games for just a few minutes at a time is the best way for your dog to learn. It keeps it fun and their attention levels high. Pair it with an activity you do regularly, like getting a cold drink or a loo break to remind yourself throughout the day.
Make some delicious cooling dog treats
It’s really easy to make frozen ‘pupsicles’ by blitzing up fruit like watermelon, banana, blueberries or strawberries and mixing with some yoghurt or kefir before freezing. You can make small ones in an ice cube tray or special moulds.
You could also freeze a mix of their dry food with some diced veggies and tasty treats and pour over a little water or bone broth and freeze in recycled yoghurt pots for a cool and crunchy dinner on the lawn.
Carry water with you all year round
When you do go out, always carry water with you. This applies all year round, but it’s even more important in a heatwave. There are some great collapsible bowls that take up very little space.
Water loving pups
How about a children’s paddling pool for your garden? Or you can repurpose a sturdy plastic postal tray with shallow sides. Some dog don’t like water, but you can encourage them to take a step into a very shallow amount of water, gently building up their water confidence over time.
Even if your dog doesn’t like bath time, they may still enjoy a splash about in the garden.
Clear shallow streams are also great for a cooling paddle if you are out and about.
Make sure not to leave your dog unattended near water though, just to be on the safe side!
Get to know the signs of heatstroke
Heatstroke develops quickly and can be fatal. When dogs overheat, they can’t reduce their body temperature quickly enough. Large breed, elderly dogs, puppies, flat-faced dogs, and dogs with heavy coats are more at risk.
To get help quickly, learn these signs to look out for:
• Excessive panting, difficulty breathing
• Lethargy, being less responsive
• Heavy drooling (more than normal) or foaming mouth
• Confusion or lack of coordination
• Sickness or diarrhoea
• Seizures, fits or collapse
• Shaking or weakness
• Changes in the gum and tongue colour (darker or paler)
• Dry mouth or nose
Know what is normal for your dog so that you can quickly notice changes. Contact your vet urgently if you are worried your dog might have heatstroke.
And NEVER leave dogs in cars on a warm day; temperatures can quickly rise in a car, even with the windows open.
Stop Walking Your Dog is available in paperback and Kindle versions here https://go.puptalk.co.uk/stopwalkingyourdog/