With temperatures rising across the UK, Dogs Trust, the nation’s largest dog welfare charity, is cautioning owners about the risks of heat stroke in dogs, even with moderate early summer temperatures.

Many people know that extreme heat can be dangerous for dogs, but fewer realise that early summer weather can also be hazardous.

A recent study revealed that nearly 75% of heat-related illnesses in dogs are due to physical exertion, with over two-thirds occurring during regular walks. Flat-faced breeds, such as English Bulldogs, Pugs, and French Bulldogs, are particularly vulnerable to heatstroke. Recent research by the Royal Veterinary College and Nottingham Trent University shows that English Bulldogs are fourteen times more susceptible to heat-related illnesses than Labrador Retrievers. Over a third of flat-faced dog owners have reported that heat regulation is a challenge for their pets.

Signs and Precautions

Dogs Trust advises owners to look for these symptoms of heatstroke:

  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Lethargy or drowsiness
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Collapse

Immediate Actions to Take

If a dog shows signs of heatstroke, Dogs Trust recommends:

  1. Immediate Response: Stop the activity and move the dog to a shaded, cool area.
  2. Cool First, Transport Second: Quickly cool the dog using cold water (not ice-cold) or a paddling pool. Continuous dousing with cool water is also effective.
  3. Adapt for Older Dogs: For older dogs or those with health issues, use room-temperature water while ensuring air circulation with a fan or breeze. Place ice wrapped in a tea towel on the groin and armpits.
  4. Monitor Cooling: Stop cooling if the dog starts shivering.
  5. Avoid Wet Towels: Do not cover the dog with a wet towel as it can trap heat.
  6. Contact the Vet: Call a vet immediately and transport the dog with the air conditioning on or windows open.

In cases where a dog collapses or struggles to breathe, call a vet urgently.

Cars and Dogs

Dogs Trust also warns never to leave dogs alone in cars, even for a few minutes, as the temperature can rise quickly and become fatal. If you see a dog in distress in a car, call 999 immediately.

Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director of Dogs Trust, emphasises the importance of recognising early signs: “Even lovely early summer temperatures can cause problems, particularly for flat-faced breeds or those with health conditions. Some dogs continue to run and play even when they’re tired, raising their risk of heatstroke.”

For more advice on keeping dogs safe in warm weather, visit www.dogstrust.org.uk/hotweather.