Dogs, like most pets, are unable to sweat which makes them feel a lot hotter than humans as they don’t have a supportive Thermoregulation system to cool them down. An average body temperature of a human is 37 degrees Celsius, however, the average body temperature of a dog is two degrees hotter. We all feel the difference between a hot sunny day at 20 degrees Celsius and 22 degrees Celsius which means every degree we feel is felt two degrees hotter by a dog.
To keep themselves cool, dogs pant, this enables them to breathe out the hot air from their lungs and exchange it with cooler external air. They also seek a cool surface to lie down on as opposed to carpet. Their bodies are able to transfer some of their internal heat to surfaces that are cooler than themselves.
Keeping a dog in a car in the hot weather means that there is no external cooler air for the dog to breathe in when panting so the dog’s breath soon acts as a radiator, heating up the car faster. The surfaces of a car are always soft and absorb heat fast which results in no cool surface for the dog to transfer its body heat to. This is why leaving your dog in a hot car for over 5 minutes can be potentially fatal.
The general rule is that it is safe to leave your dog in a car for no longer than 5 minutes and only when the outside temperature doesn’t exceed 21 degrees Celsius. Any hotter than that and you will need to think about adapting your plans to suit your dog. Whether that’s dropping the dog off at home before you do a food shop or giving them to a family member to look after whilst you run some errands. If you have a passenger in the car, ask for them to stay in the car with the dog so you can either keep the boot open or keep the air con on. Make sure you always put the window down slightly for your dog, even if you are popping out for 2 minutes and try to park in a shady spot.
If you see a dog in a hot car that you think is in distress, you should dial 999.
However, they may not be able to reach the dog in time as it can take minutes for it to turn fatal. If the situation becomes urgent and you can tell they are showing major signs of heatstroke, many people will resort to breaking into the car. This is completely your decision as it could be classed as criminal damage and you could be taken to court. Before smashing the car window, take a short video and photos to prove the dog was in distress to aid yourself in court. You should also notify the police of what you’re about to do and why.
‘The law states that you have a lawful excuse to commit damage if you believe that the owner of the property that you damage would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances
(section 5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971).’
• Heavy panting
• A rapid pulse
• Excessive salivation
• Glazed eyes
• Lack of coordination
• Vomiting or diarrhoea
• Loss of consciousness
If you’re going out for the day with your dog, take a re-usable dog water bowl and water bottle and frequently offer it to your dog, especially when they are panting. You can buy special dog water bottles from most pet shops which are designed to allow you to pour the water from the bottle into an attached water bowl for portable use.
Make sure you keep an eye on your dog’s water bowl at home as they tend to drink a lot more when they are warm just like humans and you may not notice they are out of water.
If you are walking your dog at midday when it’s hottest, then try to plan a walk with plenty of shade, for example, woodland, or natural water spots like rivers, lakes and the sea. If they are not water-lovers, entice them into the water with a game of fetch or go into the water with them if you fancy a dip!
Paddling pools are not only great fun for kids but dogs love them too! Make sure you keep it in the shade to keep the water cold and they will love cooling themselves down with a little splash about.
If you don’t have a paddling pool or a sprinkler available, try pouring some tepid or cool water over your dog. It is advised not to pour ice-cold water over your dog or completely submerge your dog in water due to the sudden difference in temperatures. If you do pour some tepid or cool water over your dog, wipe away the excess water with your hand as long-haired dogs may become waterlogged making the fur hold in the heat.
If your dog is long-haired, make sure you are regularly brushing them to get rid of loose hairs and knots that trap in the heat. Keep their coat clipped to a shorter length than they would have in winter and make
sure the hair is out of their eyes and mouth.
In the hot weather, dogs with light coloured or thinly coated fur can also get sunburnt. If they are at risk of getting sunburnt, you can now buy special dog sun cream available at pet shops.
Dogs paw pads may look pretty tough but on hot surfaces such as sand and tarmac, it can really hurt your dogs’ paws. Stick to grass and muddy terrain when walking your dog and make sure there is a cold surface available to your dog if you are in your garden.
Keep your dogs safe this summer by keeping them cool.