Despite the slight change of weather this past week the forecast is set to improve and we seems to be at the definite start of summer, where we and our lovely dogs can all enjoy some long sunny days.

With the weather turning warmer, I thought it was useful to look at the important ways we can help our dogs when it is hot and how to keep them safe. Let’s look first at how dogs are different than us in keeping their bodies cool.

Humans are able to sweat through their skin to cool themselves down through sweat glands which are situated all over our bodies. ( merocrine glands) 

If we get too hot, the body triggers the mecrocrine glands to release sweat, which evaporates and cools us down. But dogs cannot sweat through their skin. 

The only way they can keep cool is by panting and releasing heat through their nose and the pads on their paws. Mecrocrine glands are only situated on a dog’s paws, so this is a very small surface area for sweat to evaporate on a dog compared to humans. 

Because of this dog can overheat quickly and dogs can suffer fatal heatstroke within minutes. Signs of heatstroke include, excessive panting, drooling, lethargy, difficulty walking, confusion, vomiting and collapsing. (If you suspect heatstroke, you need to get your dog to a vet urgently.) 

Move your dog to a shady area, lay the dog down on some towels soaked in cool water, never put cold or icy water on a dog and encourage them to have small sips of cool water. If you have access to a fan, you could use this to cool the dog too. 

As you get your dog to the vet your aim is to help the dog to cool down gradually and safely until specialist treatment can be given.

Dog expert Tracey Prall who is based in Abergavenny with her dog Tiny Timmy
Dog expert Tracey Prall with her dog Tiny Timmy (Tracey Prall)

So, let’s look at my top tips for helping your dog keep cool and safe in the summer.

1/ I know this sounds obvious but never leave a dog on a warm or hot day in a car. Even if it is cloudy but the temperature is quite warm, you just cannot risk it. Leaving a couple of windows open will just not be enough to keep your dog cool and the car will heat up like an oven. And if you think parking in the shade will help, it won’t.

On a hot day a dog can suffer fatal heatstroke in a car within 15 minutes as they just don’t have the capacity to cool themselves down. If the temperature outside the car is 21 degrees C, then the temperature inside the car after just 10 minutes rises to 32 degrees C. 

Another 10 minutes and your dog is starting to suffer. It’s simple, never leave a dog in a hot car as the consequences could be disastrous.

2/ Be aware that places in the home can heat up quickly too. So, if you have a conservatory or a porch, don’t leave your dog there as these areas can heat up just as quickly. Instead leave them in a cooler part of the home with access to plenty of drinking water. 

Remember also that if your dog is in a garden, it also needs access to some shade and cooler area. If you are going on a day trip and its warm, then a safer option is to leave the dog at home and get a dog walker in to see to your dog. Even popping to the shops, leave your dog at home in the cool. 

That quick pop into a shop that you thought might be 10 minutes could easily turn into half an hour and your dog will not cope in a hot car.

3/At home always have access to bowls of drinking water for your dog. We have 5 bowls dotted about the house in different rooms so the dogs can access it easily and on warm days check them regularly.

4/Walk your dog at cooler times of the day, so early morning or in the evening. Remember that tarmac, pavements absorb heat so you don’t want to be walking your dog on this when it’s a hot day as it could cause injury to your dog’s pads. Keep to the shade, keep the walk short and sweet. Do a tarmac test with the back of your hand, if it feels warm to you, then its way too hot for your dog!

5/ Even on a short walk, always have a supply of water for your dog, there are plenty of great water bottles available now and offer your dog the opportunity to take a drink regularly. 

If you are on a slightly longer walk, you can get some inexpensive pop-up shelters to give you and your dog some shade too 

6/ Dogs that are more at risk in the warmer weather are puppies, older dogs, shorter nosed breed like a pug, bulldogs and boxers. And longer haired dogs like huskies, malamutes, German Shepherds or bigger dogs will need to be kept cool. Be extra vigilant, they will find it harder to cool themselves down through panting.

7/Some dogs have paler skin than others and pinker skin or thinner hair, so you can use a pet sunscreen to cover the exposed areas. I used to have a little collie cross who had a very pink nose, and the tip of her ears were pink, so in the summer she always had a little bit of sunscreen on them.

8/ There are lots of great things you can buy now to help keep your dog cool in the summer, cool coats, cool bandanas, cool mats etc. You can soak the item in cold water and then put it on the dog to keep them cool. I know a lot of owners who have cool coats and mats etc and advise that they really do help. ( remember that once the coat has dried it must be removed and resoaked with water)

9/ Get a Paddling pool! Some dogs just love cooling off and playing in a paddling pool (don’t force your dog to enjoy it) but those that do can have a lot of fun. Some dogs also enjoy drinking and being under a shower of hose water. (just make sure it’s only for brief periods as you don’t want them to drink too much in one go)

10/ How about trying some of these ideas to keep your dog cool too. You can fill a Kong with some suitable meaty stuff and freeze, freeze carrots or broccoli. Or fill an ice cube tray with a little water and mashed banana or a drained can of tuna in spring wate. Spread a tasty paste on a lickimat and freeze it. If you check online, there are lots od recipes you can try and freeze so that your dog has its own frozen treat to keep it cool. 

Let us hope the lovely weather continues for us and our lovely dogs, enjoy the sunshine, keep your dog’s safe and have fun.