Heatstroke can start without warning and has devastating consequences for our four-legged friends. Dogs can’t control their body temperature the way we can. The only way they can try to cool down is through panting and sweat glands in their paws.

One of the most common causes of heatstroke or hyperthermia is dogs that have been left in hot cars. But leaving pets out in the garden for too long without shade or taking them for a walk at the hottest part of the day can be very dangerous too.

Heatstroke advice, causes and symptoms

• Never leave pets in cars, conservatories or caravans even for a short time. Even on a cloudy day with the windows open, the temperature can soar dangerously high in just a few minutes, which can cause fatal heatstroke.

  • Try not to exercise pets during the hottest hours of the day. Instead, go out early in the morning or in the evening. Keep strenuous exercise to a minimum and give them access to cool, indoor areas.
  • Owners of flat-faced breeds such as Pugs, Boxers and Bulldogs should be particularly vigilant. These dogs often have restricted airways due to their flat-face and don’t tolerate heat well. They can show signs of hyperthermia even during a mild increase in temperature and humidity.
  • A dog wearing a muzzle will be at high risk because they can’t control their body temperature adequately by panting.
  • Stressed, over-excited or over-exercised dogs can be at risk even if the temperature and humidity is not excessive, particularly if they are in a poorly ventilated environment.
  • Dogs often don’t show any warning signs of heatstroke. As the body temperature rises they can pant and drool excessively, become lethargic, drowsy and uncoordinated, and in a short time can collapse, become unconscious, and if not treated as an emergency, it can prove fatal.

What to do if you suspect your pet has heatstroke

For the best chance of survival, dogs suffering from heatstroke urgently need to have their body temperature lowered gradually.

  • Move your dog to a shaded/cool area.
  • Immediately pour small amounts of room temperature (not cold) water onto your dog’s body to avoid shock.  If possible, you can also wrap your dog in wet towels or place your dog in the breeze of a fan.
  • Allow your dog to drink small amounts of cool water.
  • Continue to pour small amounts of room temperature water onto your dog until their breathing starts to settle but never so much that they begin to shiver.

Once the dog is cool, take them to the nearest vet immediately, even if they seem to have made a full recovery.

*Information sourced from PDSA

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