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Dogs are more sensitive to heat than people. Their body does not perspire like ours. Exposure to high temperatures can be very harmful. To avoid unwanted accidents ...

Dogs are more sensitive to heat than humans. Their bodies don’t sweat in the same way that ours do so exposing them to high temperatures can be very harmful. To avoid accidents, remember that:

Panting can be a warning sign: Dogs pant to cool down. Unlike humans, they don’t have sweat glands all over their skin, so panting is the most effective way they have of cooling down. A dog’s normal body temperature ranges from 38°C to 39°C. When its body senses excess heat, it gets to work pumping warm blood towards the tongue. This process encourages warm, moisture-filled air from the lungs to condense when it meets the mucous membranes of the mouth and tongue, which are cooler. Panting is normal after exercise, but if your dog starts to pant too rapidly or is drooling at the same time, this may be a sign of dangerous heatstroke.

Heatstroke can be deadly: Put simply, heatstroke is what happens when the increase in ambient heat is greater than the ability of the dog’s body to regulate its temperature. It is a very real risk during the summer months and the consequences can be very severe. Heatstroke can kill an animal in a matter of minutes. Basic guidelines for preventing heatstroke are:

  • Don’t leave your dog in a car: the temperature inside the vehicle can become unbearably hot for dogs in just 20 minutes, and can be life-threatening
  • Never leave your dog in a carrier in the sun
  • Avoid walks, playing and exercise during the hottest part of the day.
  • Make sure your dog is always well-hydrated
  • Walk dogs at dawn and dusk on hot days. Avoid pavements when the temperature is hot as they can be so hot that they burn the pads on a dog’s paws

Fabric muzzles are dangerous: We’ve already seen that panting is the main way for dogs to keep cool. Any muzzle that stops a dog from panting is not recommended, from a veterinary point of view. If your dog has to wear a muzzle, make sure you choose one that is basket-shaped and prevents your dog from biting, while still allowing it to open their mouth and stick out their tongue.

Short-nosed dogs suffer most in hot weather Boxers, bulldogs, pugs and other brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds have shorter airways. One effect of this is that it makes it harder for their bodies to cool down. Special care has to be taken with these breeds in summer, and owners must ensure they don’t expose them to conditions that may risk their health. Sun and high temperatures are especially dangerous for these breeds. Overweight or obese dogs, older dogs, puppies, and dogs with medical conditions are also more at risk in the heat, and will need to be monitored even more carefully.

Hot tarmac can be an issue: Dogs’ foot pads are very tough but can also suffer in the heat. Making a dog walk on hot tarmac can cause significant burns. Seek shade on walks and check your dog’s foot pads after a long walk, or if your dog is limping or licking themselves.

Cutting your dog’s hair isn’t always the best solution: A dog’s coat isn’t just useful in cold weather – it also acts as a protective barrier against the heat. That’s why simply cutting your dog’s hair isn’t the best way to keep them cool. For some breeds, a trim can be harmful because it exposes their sensitive skin to the sun’s rays. The best option is to ask a specialist dog groomer, who can advise you on the most practical haircut for your dog.

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