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Protecting dogs in hot and sunny weather

The recent hot weather poses issues for dog owners. Our four legged friends like to be exercised - but the weather and the heat of the ground pose risks. The Dogs Trust has published guidelines which promote high welfare standards and may help owners when considering when and where to go out, and how to keep dogs cool in the sun.

  • Provide shade and water – Make sure your dog has access to shade and plenty of fresh water throughout the day.  
  • Plan your walkies –Walk your dog in the early morning or late in the evening when temperatures are cooler. This will reduce their risk of heatstroke. Be particularly careful if your dog is old, overweight or suffers from breathing difficulties.  
  • Do the five-second tarmac test –Tarmac can get very hot in the sun and could burn your dog’s paws. Check the pavement with your hand before letting your dog walk on it – hold your hand down for five seconds, if it's too hot for you, then it's too hot for your dog's paws.  
  • Don't let them get burnt – Keep your dog out of direct sunlight where you can. Use pet-safe sun cream on exposed parts of your dog’s skin, like the tips of their ears and nose. Ask your vet for more advice if needed.  
  • Check ahead for adventures –If you're planning a day out somewhere, check whether dogs are welcome. Some public parks and beaches may have Public Space Protection Orders or Dog Control Orders at certain times of year. 

If dogs are too hot and can’t reduce their body temperature by panting, they may develop heatstroke which can be fatal.

Heatstroke can affect any type of dog, but certain breeds and types of dogs are at increased risk, including brachycephalic or flat-faced breeds such as English Bulldogs, Pugs and French Bulldogs. According to recent research (from the VetCompass Programme at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in collaboration with Nottingham Trent University), English Bulldogs are fourteen times more likely to suffer heat-related illness compared to Labrador Retrievers. Over a third of owners of flat-faced dogs reported that heat regulation is a problem for their pet. 

  • Symptoms of heatstroke in dogs:  
  • panting heavily  
  • drooling excessively  
  • appearing lethargic, drowsy or uncoordinated  
  • vomiting  
  • collapsing  
  • diarrhoea 

If your dog is showing any of these signs, contact your nearest vet and follow their advice. 

If your dog has collapsed or is struggling to breathe, call your nearest vet immediately. They can advise if your dog is suffering from heatstroke and what to do. While you contact your vet, here are some things you can do to help cool your dog down: 

  • Move the dog to a shaded and cool area
  • Place them in the breeze of a fan, or in an air-conditioned room
  • Offer them drinking water 
  • Start cooling them down by soaking their body with tap water, avoiding their face
  • Lie them on a cold wet towel or cooling mat, but don’t place a towel over them as this can raise their temperature.

Dogs die in hot cars. Think twice about any car trips with your dog. If you do have to travel with your dog, plan your journey. Consider travelling at cooler times of the day, identify places to take breaks and avoid congested roads or busy times of day when you could get caught in traffic. 

A dog could die in a hot car in just minutes. Winding a window down is not enough to help your dog stay cool. If you see a dog in distress in a hot car call 999 and ask for the police.