Summer is here, or so the rumour has it, and while we all love a bit of sunshine in our lives, it’s important to look out for our pets during any hot weather.
Dogs in particular are susceptible to heatstroke; because they only have sweat glands in their paws and around their nose, they are less efficient at cooling themselves down.
So what are the warning signs of heatstroke – and what can you do to treat it?
Signs and symptoms
Some dogs are more vulnerable to heatstroke than others – those who are overweight and flat-faced breeds such as pugs are at particular risk. However, the condition poses a danger to all breeds and conditions of dog, so don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.
Because of their lack of sweat glands, dogs rely on panting to regulate their temperature and keep themselves cool. However, be aware that excessive panting could be a sign of heatstroke, so make sure you’re aware of what is normal for your pet.
Excessive drooling is another warning sign, along with vomiting, and the final warning sign to look out for is a dog that appears lethargic, drowsy or un-coordinated.
What to do
If you suspect your dog is suffering from heatstroke, the key is to lower their temperature gradually; just like in cases of hypothermia, a sudden change can lead to shock.
Firstly, take your pet to a shaded/cool area, and immediately douse with cool (not cold) water. If available, you can also use wet towels and place them in front of a fan.
Allow the dog to take small sips of cool water and continue to douse the dog with cool water until their breathing starts to settle. Take care not to use so much water that they begin to shiver.
Once the dog is cool, take them to the nearest vet as a matter of urgency.
Prevention is better than cure
As with all things, it’s better to avoid the need for treatment by preventing heatstroke from happening in the first place.
Make sure that your pet has access to a cool, well-ventilated space or shaded spot, with plenty of water readily available.
Avoid exercising animals in hot weather, taking them out in the morning or evening when the temperature is cooler.
Try to avoid long car journeys and never leave your pet in a parked car. Even on mild days, the temperature inside a vehicle can rise rapidly; when it’s 22 degrees outside, in a car it can reach 47 degrees within an hour and could prove fatal in that time.
If you see a dog in a hot car, call 999 – it’s classed as an emergency and the police will alert the RSPCA.
For more in-depth information about heatstroke and how to prevent it, our friendly team are always here to help. Find your local branch here.