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Recognising and preventing heat exhaustion in your working dog

retriever, dog, drinkingWorking dogs often spend more time outside than regular family dogs. This means that it becomes particularly important to keep them well hydrated and safe in the summer heat.

Dogs of course have the ability to pant and sweat through their paw pads to help them cool down, but this is only minimally effective when temperatures continue to rise and their environment doesn’t change.

How to recognise heat exhaustion

Working dogs should be closely monitored in hot weather.

If you notice any excessive panting, excessive drooling, incoordination, sickness or reddened gums, then it’s important to act quickly and provide your dog with immediate care.

If your dog is physically struggling or falls unconscious, follow these steps to help cool them down:

  1. Using cool water (not ice cold), cool down your dog focusing on the back of their head and neck, under their forelimbs (armpits) and between their hind legs (groin area). Using a wet towel is a good method to lower their temperature, or a cool shower.
  2. Call your vet or the nearest emergency clinic and tell them your dog’s symptoms, they will advise you on what to do next.
  3. When they wake up, let your dog drink water, but don’t force them to drink if they’re uncomfortable. If they can’t keep it down, simply wet their tongue instead.
  4. Check for signs of shock and keep bringing the temperature down as long as possible.
  5. Seek immediate veterinary attention because heatstroke can cause unseen problems.
  6. If travelling in a car make sure to keep windows open or turn the air conditioning on.

The best ways to prevent heat exhaustion

The best thing to do is to avoid being in direct sun during the hottest parts of the day. Seek shade where possible, as often as possible and apply dog-friendly suncream to light coloured dogs. Make sure plenty of water is always available to help your dog stay hydrated too.

Remember that your dog’s paw pads can also suffer on hot surfaces. If you can’t keep the back of your hand flat on the floor for more than 5 seconds, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.

Higher risk breeds

Dogs with short hair or white coats or coats with large areas of white such as White German Shepherds, Whippets, Greyhounds, Weimaraner,  Pointers and Jack Russells are more prone to sunburn as their skin tends to be paler than dogs with dark coats.

Stay safe this summer and help your dog avoid heat exhaustion.