How to look after your dog in the heat

Summer challenges for Dogs
Written by Rebecca Lawrence RVN APVN (Reptile & Amphibian)

We all enjoy sharing our summer adventures with our beloved pets, but we can sometimes forget the dangers this entails.


Heat stroke
What causes heat stroke?
Dogs are unable to sweat like us, only being able to sweat through their paws. The only way for them to try and cool their body down is to pant. Add to this their fur coats which, for most breeds, covers their entire body and our dogs have the potential for rapid overheating in hot environments.
Facts about heat stroke
• Overheating during exercise accounts for about 74% of cases
• Being outside in hot weather even just sitting in the garden accounts for 12% of cases
• Being in a hot car account for 5% of cases
• 50% fatality rate in dogs with heat stroke
• Normal dog temperature is around 38.5°c, an increase of 2° can start to show signs of heat stroke
• Prolonged heat stroke can lead to organ failure and death
• Short nosed breeds (Brachycephalic) are more prone to developing heat stroke as their shorter faces affect their ability to pant effectively and cool down
• Be careful of exercising flat faced, large breeds or overweight dogs in temperatures as low as 12-15degrees, which is usually ok for most dogs.
• From 16 degrees and above the risk of heatstroke to all dogs increases. Try and avoid rigorous exercise during these temperatures
• Cats and small mammals (rabbits, guinea pigs) can also suffer the effects of prolonged heat exposure
Clinical signs
Dogs are our best friend and will follow you with no complaints. This does not mean that they are coping with the heat. Below are signs to look out for if your dog is starting to suffer from heat stroke.
• Vomiting – this can look like normal vomit but also, they will cough and bring up a foam/bubble like substance
• Diarrhoea
• Excessive panting
• Hypersalivating – This means that there is a lot of saliva being produced from the mouth. Sometimes it will look like foam/bubbles
• Collapsing – having less energy, reluctance to continue walking and becoming completely collapsed and unable to stand
• Struggling to breathe
• Seizures – cerebral oedema which is fluid building up on the brain
• Hot to touch
• Red or purple gums


How to avoid?
Avoid taking them outside during the mid-day heat, exercise should be carried out early morning or late evening. Check the temperature each day and plan accordingly.
Avoid placing coats, jumpers, and jackets on your dog during the warmer weather. Using a harness rather than a collar will reduce the pressure placed on their airway.
Always provide fresh drinking water, carry a bottle, and travel bowl when taking them out.
Plan their grooming trips to co-inside with the warmer weather. Ask your groomer to cut them shorter than normal or increase your brushing routine to remove any build-up of dead coat in their fur.
Do not walk on hot surfaces such as sand, artificial grass, paths/tarmac. A simple test for this is placing your hand onto the surface for 7 seconds. If it is too hot for you, it is too hot for your dog’s feet.
Always be aware of the outdoor temperature, the activities you will be doing and always know of a local vet practice in case of an emergency.
NEVER leave your dog in the car on a warm day, even for a few minutes.
Always have access to shade where ever you are going.
Take extra precautions with you, cool mats, neckerchiefs, cooling jackets.
Keep your pet at a healthy weight, your veterinary practise can help you determine their body condition and assist you with any dietary changes if needed.


Heat stroke and the next step

It is essential to seek veterinary attention if you think your dog has heat stroke!
Time is crucial when dealing with heat stroke, they will often need emergency treatment, medications, oxygen therapy, intravenous fluid therapy (IVFT) and overnight hospitalisation
• Firstly, keep calm. Pets are extremely sensitive to our feelings and emotions and will notice stress and panic.
• Contact your vet
• Take your dog into an area which is cool or shaded from the direct sun. Placing directly into a car will increase their body temperature, so the car must be cooling when you are ready to travel to the vet.
• When in the car, ensure there is plenty airflow either by using the fan or air conditioning.
• Slowly start to cool your dog. This is a crucial step which you can begin as you travel to your vet. It is vital that you do this stage gradually as doing it too quickly can cause further harm. Placing on top of a wet towel (do not wrap it over the dog). Only use cool water not freezing water to do this. Hyperthermia (high body temperature) which is rapidly introduced to cooling methods could place your dog in even more risk.
• Using cool not icy water you can gently pour water and wet their head, ears, feet, and fur. Be careful not to pour it over their mouth/nose as they could inhale it into their lungs.
• Always have cool but NOT ice-cold drinking water available, do not allow your dog to drink excessively but instead little and often.
• Continue cooling on the way to the vet
Open the windows to cool your car ready for transporting to your local vet. Always contact your chosen vets prior to arriving so they can set up all they need to treat your dog.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition and one that can be very easily avoided. If you have any questions regarding what you have read your vets will be happy to answer any questions.


Grass seeds
Most dogs love to sniff through the long grasses and exploring the wilderness on a walk but there are hidden dangers afoot.
Grass seeds are sharp, especially in the dry summer season. This creates a perfect piercing tip which can easily puncture your dog’s skin. They are then imbedded into your dog’s fur/skin. If left untreated they can migrate from the origin site into your dog’s respiratory, circulatory, and digestive system which can have devastating consequences.


Where to look and what to look for
Always check your dog after a walk, including their pads of their feet and in between their toes, and their armpits. It can be an exceedingly small puncture to the skin at first but can develop into a swollen area, abscesses develop and may also cause lameness to the limb.
If they have travelled up the dogs’ nose, they will develop an intermittent or constant sneeze. Look out for nose bleeds, scratching at the nose and face and they may become irritable with behavioural changes.
Seeds can also get stuck in your dog’s ears, which can cause irritation, head shaking and itching at the face/neck
If seeds have got stuck in your dog’s eyes you may find them squinting. A discharge may develop with runny eyes and staining of fur. They may also paw around the eye area frequently.
Always contact your veterinarian if you are concerned.


What will your veterinarian do?
The vet will always do a nose to tail examination of your dog. They will take special attention to the area which you are concerned about.
Sometimes, if caught early, the grass seed has not had time to migrate, and they can be removed during the initial consultation.
If a grass seed is suspected but not found the vet may recommend a general anaesthetic to explore the area, this will include tools to flush the wound area and may involve x-ray imaging to see if a tract can be seen to help identify the grass seed’s location.
However, there are occasions where a grass seed has not been located and requires advanced digital imaging such as a CT scan to determine the grass seed location and the resulting damage from its migration. This can lead to lengthy surgery and prolonged hospitalisation

Fleas and ticks and snakes Oh My!
We all know how troublesome and frustrating fleas are and during the summer they can be even more challenging.
Regular flea treatments are always the first step to preventing flea infestations on your dog and in your home.
Always carry out routine skin/fur checks to see if you can locate any fleas running away or flea dirt. This will appear as black dandruff but when placed on a white bit of tissue and a drop of water applied will turn red. This is dried blood which has been passed through the flea after feeding.


Ticks are also a common issue and come in a range of colour, shape, and sizes. It is important to remove them correctly. You must remove the head as if it is left under the skin, it can cause an abscess/infection to occur.
If you are not sure, book an appointment with your local veterinary nurse and then can assist with the removal and show you the correct technique for removing them.


Adder and Grass snakes are native to England and can be found in rural areas across the country. Adder snakes are venomous and when a dog is bitten this can have an adverse reaction.
Anti-venom is available at most rural veterinary centres, especially those around Northumberland and Hexham area where Adder snakes are found.

Signs of an Adder bite will be:
• Swelling both around the bite mark and surrounding area. The area may also be painful and bruised
• Lethargy, trembling/wobbliness, panting, dribbling, vomiting or fever
• Irritation and itching
• Behavioural changes, lack of appetite, reluctance to exercise.
• Depending on the area in which the dog has been bitten, breathing problems may occur
• Severity will vary based on where the pet was bitten, the size of the pet and if the pet has any pre-existing health conditions. The volume of venom administered by the bite will also contribute to severity of symptoms.