Hot dogs in the midday sun ...
If you think you’re suffering through the summer heat spare a thought for our four-legged friends with their non-removable fur coats and distinct lack of sweat glands.
Even the short-coated breeds struggle with our summer temperatures and high humidity. But there are some tricks to helping to keep your pooch cool during the summer months.
Dogs still want to enjoy a walk most days. It’s good for their mental and physical wellbeing, as well as for that of their owners. The early morning is the best time for a stroll, before the heat of the day has kicked in and before the tarmac and concrete on roads and walkways have absorbed the day’s rays.
A quick test you can do to see if the road temperature is safe for your pet is to put your bare foot onto it for five seconds. If you can keep your foot on the road comfortably for a full five seconds, you are good to go and your pet’s pads will be safe. However, if it’s uncomfortable for your bare foot, it’s too hot for your dog’s paw pads. I have treated many dogs with burnt pads, it’s painful and can take weeks to fully resolve.
Take a walk on the shady railway trail and always take iced water with you for yourself and your dog. Take regular sip breaks as you walk and monitor your dog along the way. If he suddenly stops and refuses to go further he may be getting too hot and you will need to find a shady spot to cool down.
A dog’s only real efficient heat exchange mechanism is their tongue, which you will see them loll out of their heads with a wide open mouth pant when they are trying to cool down. If you see this, give them iced water and cool them down. This heat exchange mechanism is severely reduced in short-faced breeds like French bulldogs and pugs, which can overheat much faster than longer-faced breeds.
A nice ocean swim works well for cooling us down, but isn’t as effective for our dogs. The air and water temperatures are similar in the summertime and dogs can trap a layer of water in their coats which will heat them up rather than cool them down. This is exasperated by doggy life vests which can cause overheating to quicken. If your dog is able to swim without a vest, don’t put one on. If they can’t, they perhaps shouldn’t be in the water at all as not all breeds enjoy swimming.
You always want to stop them overheating before it happens but if your dog does require veterinary help, don’t hesitate. Your vet will be able to give you help over the phone even before you get to the clinic which may be life-saving. A dose of prevention is the best medicine so prepare your home with fans or air conditioning and keep your fur babies comfortable this summer.
Lucy Richardson graduated from Edinburgh University in 2005. She started CedarTree Vets in August 2012 with her husband Mark. They live at the practice with their two children, Ray and Stella, and their dog, two cats and two guinea pigs. Dr Lucy is also the FEI national head veterinarian for Bermuda