With temperatures forecasted to soar as high as 40C over the next couple of days and the Met Office issuing a red extreme heat warning, Brits across the country are feeling the heat. We’re all finding innovative ways to keep cool as the weather warms up, but with the UK hotter than the Bahamas this sunny season, how can we protect our dogs during a heatwave?
Keeping animals cool in warm weather is crucial, as they can quickly develop deadly heatstroke. With lots of hacks circling the internet, vet charity PDSA has debunked some of the biggest myths around keeping furry friends cool in extreme heat.
Myth #1 ‘A refreshing summer walk will cool my dog down’
“When the sun is shining, many of us will head out for a leisurely stroll, but don’t be tempted to take your pup. Not only will the pavement be too hot for their sensitive paws, going for walks in hot weather can cause them to dangerously overheat. Dogs love to run around, which is why nearly three quarters of heatstroke cases develop while exercising. It can also be caused by simply sitting somewhere too warm, or being trapped somewhere hot, such as a car, conservatory or room without proper ventilation.
“Instead of heading out, set up a shady spot in the garden or the house, ideally with a cooling breeze and make sure your pooch has access to plenty of water.
“Though you might not take your cats for daily walks, encourage them to be inside in a cool area during the hottest part of the day.
Myth #2 ‘Dogs can’t eat ice cubes’
“Posts go round on social media every summer claiming that the cold temperature of ice cubes can trigger a dog’s heat regulating systems to actually warm their body up, but this is untrue. As long as your pooch is healthy, providing a few ice cubes to play with or in their water bowl is a great way to cool them down.
“If your furry friend is small, or has a tendency to wolf down their food, ice shavings may be more suitable. On the opposite end of the scale, fill a cereal bowl with water and freeze it; this will be too large to get hold of with their teeth, but they’ll be able to lick it, keeping them cool for longer. We’ve also seen some bizarre trends of people cooling down cats and dogs by placing ice cubes in their bottom or under their tail, but this is absolutely not the right thing to do –your pet will not appreciate it!
“And if you’re still not sure ice cubes are the best option for your pup, you could freeze their water bowl before filling it with water, or cool their favourite toy instead.”
Myth #3 ‘Dogs cool down by sweating through their paws’
“It’s widely thought that the only place dogs can sweat is through their pads, but this isn’t actually the most effective way for them to cool down, and in fact they do sweat elsewhere on their body. At cooler temperatures, dogs lose most of their body heat through a combination of breathing and heat loss into the air around them, or a cool surface they are lying on. However, when the outside temperature is higher, dogs will mostly rely on panting to cool themselves.
“Just like human sweat helps to remove heat from the surface of the skin, dogs’ panting dogs to cool down as the water in their mouth evaporates. While this is an efficient way to lose heat, it does place additional strain on the body.”
Myth #4 ‘Leaving the window cracked will keep your dog cool in the car’
“Some people think that leaving a dog in a car on a hot day is okay as long as they open a window, but it is still very dangerous – even if the car is parked in the shade. Even when it’s only 22 degrees outside, the temperature in a car can rise very quickly, let alone when we’re in a heatwave, when the temperature will be at dangerous levels within minutes.
“The truth is, you shouldn’t leave a dog, or any pet, in a car for any amount of time, even with the window open.”
Myth #5 ‘You can use lemon juice to treat your dog for heatstroke’
“Many animals can’t sweat like we do, and panting is one of the main ways dogs cool themselves down in hot weather – heatstroke causes excessive panting, and lots of saliva to be produced. It has been rumoured that lemon juice can relieve this and help clear the excess saliva if poured or squirted into a dog’s mouth, but this is absolutely not true!
“You should never attempt to treat heatstroke with lemon juice, and this goes for any pet – the taste and acidity of the lemon juice is likely to make your pet panic, so they will pant more, causing them to get even hotter. If you suspect your pet has heatstroke, the most important thing to do is to wet them thoroughly with cool water, start first aid and contact your vet right away for emergency treatment.
Myth #6 ‘You shouldn’t clip your dog in hot weather’
“Some dogs will benefit from having their coat clipped in hot weather, especially if this is something they are used to. Dogs’ coats can insulate and slow down heat loss if the outside temperature is less than the dog’s skin temperature so many will be cooler with a shorter coat. It’s important not to clip the coat too short however, as dog’s fur does protect the skin underneath from sunburn, and be aware that some coats will grow back differently after being clipped.
“If you choose not to clip your dog’s coat, it’s important to groom them daily to help clear away loose hair. And remember, if the weather is warm enough to cause heat stroke, then keeping your dog inside and cool is the best prevention, regardless of their breed or coat type.”
Myth #7 ‘Wrapping your dog in a cold wet towel is the best way to cool them down’
“Dogs cool down through heat loss into the air around them, and by evaporation if you get them wet. This means that covering them with a wet towel can actually heat them up as it acts as an insulating layer.
“Instead, lay down a wet towel or cooling mat for your pooch to lie on, or fill a paddling pool with cold water so they can cool their paws.” PDSA is the UK’s largest vet charity providing a vital service for pets across the UK whose owners struggle to afford treatment costs for their sick and injured pets. For many vulnerable pets, PDSA is there to help when there is nowhere else for their owners to turn. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. www.pdsa.org.uk