Recent UK heatwaves left many pet owners with the difficult dilemma of whether it was too hot to walk their furry friend. With forecasts predicting another week of extreme heat – topping 30°C in parts of the country on Thursday – many Brits will be faced with the same conundrum.
Dogs need physical exercise all year round, but sometimes this can do more harm than good. Sporting thick fur, man’s best friend is in danger of getting heatstroke amid scorching temperatures, and extra care should be taken to ensure their safety.
According to Animal Friends pet insurance data, the average claim cost for treating sunstroke exceeded £400 over the last year. Going about your daily walking routines may therefore not be the most sensible approach to looking after your dog.
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When is it too hot to walk your dog?
The risk of heatstroke can begin when temperatures are as low as 20°C, according to VetsNow, if exercised too rigorously. As the mercury rises to 24°C, extreme caution should then be taken as most dogs will find the mid-twenties very uncomfortable, particularly those who are large, obese, flat-faced or very young.
VetsNow gives the 28°C to 31°C range a 9/10 risk, adding that it is life-threatening for some, while any temperature above 31°C sees heatstroke being a major risk regardless of condition, size or breed. It is therefore vital to walk your dog in far more comfortable conditions, especially as heatstroke could prove fatal.
The advice is to walk your dog early in the morning or late at night during particularly warm days to avoid the peak temperatures. Regular stops should also be added, preferably coming in shadier areas to offer some respite.
What are the dangers of walking your dog in the heat?
The most extreme danger is heatstroke, and the breeds most at risk include Bull breeds, terriers and Labradors. Signs your dog could exhibit include heavy panting, dribbling, unstable balance and lethargy.
Should your dog show any of these symptoms, you are advised to contact your vet immediately. Walking your dog in excessive heat could also lead to sunburn, for both pet and owner.
Despite their fur providing some level of protection, the skin underneath is still prone to sunburn. More vulnerable areas include the nose, ear tips or stomach, where there is generally little fur.
Pet-friendly sun cream can help prevent this painful feeling, while a cold compress can really help to soothe any soreness afterwards. Dehydration is also a risk as well as burnt paws – as a general rule, if it’s too hot for your hand it’s too hot for their paws.
What other activities can you do if it’s too hot for a walk?
It’s important to ensure your dog does not burn out from strenuous activities under the baking sun. A good idea would be to use up your dog’s mental and physical energy in different ways.
These could include using frozen treats in food puzzle toys to keep them stimulated, or hiding toys in small areas, in cooler conditions, to encourage them to sniff them out. Toys or treats could also be used to encourage your dog into a shaded area or possibly even into a paddling pool.
This could also be the perfect time to teach them simple new tricks, or perhaps refresh their basic training.
How to keep your dog cool in the summer?
A dog doesn’t have to go for a walk for it to get too hot. Throughout the day, supplies of water should be regularly topped up.
Cool rooms, created by setting up a fan, closing the curtains on the sunny side of the house and opening the windows to let in whatever breeze may be present, could be a safe haven for your four-legged friend. Ice packs and cool pads can also cool your dog down, while regular grooming could be important as all the loose fur acts as insulation – although it’s worth checking with your vet as some breeds’ fur is actually designed to protect them from the sun.