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Davies Veterinary Specialists Guide on How to Keep Hot Dogs Cool

Your top questions are answered by our Specialist vets

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Our Internal Medicine answer your questions and offer advice on how to keep your pets cool when the weather gets hot.

Can dogs sweat?

Dogs have a small number of sweat glands (such as those on their paw pads) but these do not contribute significantly to heat loss.  Dogs predominantly lose heat by conduction (such as contact with a cold surface) and convection (transfer of heat energy from hot to cooler molecules) through the skin. As the body temperature increases, blood vessels in the skin dilate to increase blood flow. This enables heat to be lost from the blood around the body.

Doesn’t a dog’s coat help keep heat out as well as keep heat in?

A Dog’s coat is designed to capture air and use it as an insulator. In the winter this keeps the cold out and holds the heat in. In the summer the air trapping could prevent some heat absorption, however a thick coat will also reduce the dog’s ability to lose heat once it has become hot. The only option for cooling down in these circumstances is to pant.

Does panting cool my dog down?

In addition to conduction and convection dogs also rely on evaporative cooling through the respiratory tract by panting. When the ambient temperature is the same as their temperature dogs will predominantly rely on panting to cool themselves.

What is heatstroke?

As the body temperature rises inflammatory mediators are released causing inflammation throughout the body. This has an effect on all the major organs of the body. It can result in a variety of clinical signs depending on the body system affected.  These may include a rapid heart beat, kidney failure, oedema of the brain and failure of the blood clotting system. Once the body temperature rises above 41.5°C damage starts to occur and the higher the temperature the great the risk of irreparable organ damage.

How can I tell if my dog is too hot?

Early signs that your dog may be suffering from heat stroke include prolonged heavy breathing, bright pink to red lips and gums, weakness, lethargy and depression.

What should I do if I think my dog has heat stroke?

It’s important for your dog to be assessed by a vet as soon as possible. If you are not close to a vet an interim measure whilst transporting your pet would include soaking your dog with cool (but not cold) water and using a fan to improve cool air flow. Soaking the dog’s feet and placing cool towels on the abdomen can work well.

So how do dogs survive in hot countries?

Street dogs in hot countries modify their activity to match the environmental temperature, tending to be most active at dawn, dusk and night. This behaviour is similar to that of wild animals such as lions on African plains who sleep in the shade during the hotter parts of the day. Owners of pets in hot countries take similar precautions with their timings of walks and provision of shade.

Do some dogs struggle with the heat more than others?

A number of factors can make it more difficult for some dogs to lose heat than others such as a thick coat vs a short coat and body surface area. Brachycephalic breeds e.g. French bulldogs have relatively small airways and a larger amount of tissue at the back of the throat. If these dogs have to pant excessively in the heat the tissue can become swollen, making heat loss and breathing much more difficult.

Hot cars are known to be a problem for dogs why?

On sunny days the temperature can rise quickly and the internal temperature of the car can soon hit the same level as that of the dog. This means the dog cannot use conduction or convection or reduce its body temperature and instead must rely solely on panting, which is a very inefficient way to lose heat especially in a hot environment.

Never leave your dog in a car on a sunny or warm day, even if the windows are open.

Can my dog get sunburn?

Pale-coloured dogs are vulnerable to sunburn, particularly on their ears, noses and any areas that are thinly covered with hair.

Does my dog need to drink more in hot weather?

Similar to people during hot weather it is important for dogs to be kept well hydrated. Always make sure they have access to clean, fresh water.

If my dog still wants to run and play in the heat surely he’s fine?

Depending on how hot it is and the level of activity this may not be a good idea. Instead, to be safe it’s best to exercise your dog in the early morning or late afternoon/evening if you know it’s going to be a hot day. If you have no option but to exercise your dog on a hot day take frequent breaks, offer plenty of water (at least as much as you are drinking), exercise in the shade, preferably near a water source such as a stream, and keep your dog’s coat damp.

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