Britain has experienced some hot weather recently. Many people I have seen have been welcoming the hot weather and making the most of the sun. But our pets aren’t always as keen and many dogs suffer with the high temperatures. People often asks about the best ways to cool their dogs and make them more comfortable during these weather conditions. All dog breeds can struggle in these weather conditions, but dogs especially at risk are young and old dogs, brachycephalic breeds and those with thick coats. Dogs only sweat through their paws meaning they cannot cool themselves down as efficiently as people can.
During this weather it can be essential to make changes to the home and in the dog’s daily routine. It’s likely that many owners will control the temperature of their homes with the use of fans and even air con units. Some owners may even regularly monitor the temperature of their home to ensure it is not becoming too hot. However there are other things that can be done to keep the dogs more comfortable.
In hot weather dogs should not be walked or taken for a run. They are particularly prone to overheating, resulting in heatstroke and dehydration. A further risk is the temperature of the ground which can cause injuries to the dog’s feet when walked. The tarmac can become very hot during the day and burn dogs feet. Due to this it is recommended to only walk dogs during the cooler part of the day, early morning and late evening and keep them out of the sun during the hottest parts of the day. The general rule is to place the back of your hand on the floor for 5 second. If you can’t hold it there for 5 seconds then it is too hot to walk your dog. Personally I believe it is just not worth the risk and if the weather is particularly hot it just isn’t worth the risk of going on your normal dog walk. Instead of normal exercise other things can be done to keep the dogs occupied during the day. Mental exercise is just as good as physical exercise and this will use their energy as well as breaking up their day.
There are many alternatives to physical exercise for dogs which will keep them out of the sun and occupied. Food feeders make a great brain game and can replace the bowl at feeding time. There are many available feeder, with some being more of a challenge than others. There are also simple treat balls for kibble or even kongs which can be stuffed and frozen to provide a cold snack. Many people also like to provide frozen ice blocks for their dogs with things like kibble and vegetables frozen inside. This provides a nice cooling treat while giving the dog something to do and keeping them hydrated!
Some gentle play can be provided in the house or a safe shaded area to provide them with some fun interactions. Be sure to prevent the dogs from running around and getting too excited and hot. A gentle game of tug or relaxing game of hide and seek with a toy may be all that is required. Alternatively for food motivated dogs, treats can be hidden under cups for the dogs to find. But it’s not all about play! Some dogs just like a bit of company and some cuddle, particularly older dogs. More active dogs may enjoy a short training session, teaching a new trick or practicing some basic commands will give your dog some mental and physical stimulation to break up their day.
If it is practical, some dogs may appreciate a small paddling pool. The water doesn’t need to be deep, just enough for them to splash around in and cool their feet and belly. It’s possible to find many safe and practical items to use for this including shallow plastic planters, plastic children’s sandpits or even small paddling pools. These would all be appropriate for smaller dogs. Dogs should be supervised while playing in the pool and if they enjoy playing, different toys can be placed in the water for the dogs to play with and retrieve. Some dogs may simply enjoy standing or lying down in the water to cool off!These are just a few suggestions of things to do to replace the normal walk during the hotter parts of the day and keep your dog’s safe.
Providing a sheltered, cool resting areas out of direct sunlight is great for protecting your dog and cat against the heat. Keeping them out of the direct sunlight and in a cooler area will help to keep them comfortable. Cooling aids are available which includes cooling coats and also cooling mats. These are simple to use and work by reducing the dogs temperature. An easy alternative to a cooling mat is simply providing a wet towel or blanket for your pet to sleep on. Alternatively a wet towel can be placed over the dogs back to act as a cooling coat. In the resting area plenty of fresh water should be provided to ensure your pet stays well hydrated.
Vehicles reach extreme temperatures during the hot weather so it is advised not to travel with your pets during this time if possible and certainly not leave your dog in a car in high temperatures. There are often so many news articles reporting dogs becoming ill or dying in vehicles due to extreme temperatures so be sure to protect your dog from this.
If you have any concerns about your pets or you need advice on keeping them cool then your veterinary practice will always be happy to advice on the best ways to keep your furry family happy!
I hope you enjoy the nice weather and keep yourself and your pets safe from the heat!