Watch for these symptoms of sunstroke in dogs, and how to prevent it happening

By Sally Burton
Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 9:54 am
Updated Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 12:26 pm

It is never a good idea to walk your dog in a heatwave - they can quickly become dehydrated, suffer from sunburn or sunstroke, and burn their paws on hot pavements and surfaces.

This expert advice highlights the four main dangers to watch for this summer in pets;

Sunburn

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Dogs can get sunburnt and suffer from sunstroke, even with their fur providing some level of protection.

Dr. Samantha Webster of Joii Petcare said: “Although thick coats of fur do block sun rays to a certain degree, the skin underneath is still prone to sunburn.

"Those areas that aren’t protected by a thick layer of fur, such as the nose, ear tips or stomach, are even more vulnerable.

“Some dogs are also more susceptible to sunburn than others. For example, white dogs or those with thin coats such as Staffordshire Bull Terriers, are at a higher risk".

She continued: “Sunburn can be painful for your pet. To help prevent sunburn on hot days, rub pet-friendly sun cream into your dog’s more visible areas and ensure you keep time in the direct sunlight to a minimum. If you’re unsure about the best type to use, check with your vet.

“If you notice that your pet's skin is a bit pinker than usual after a day in the sun, then a cold compress can help to soothe any soreness. Signs of severe sunburn include redness, blisters and crusty sores - these can be really painful and will need treatment from your vet.”

Sunstroke

To avoid this common problem, Dr. Webster advised: “Sunstroke happens when a dog or pet is unable to effectively regulate their body temperature.

"Unlike humans who can sweat from just about anywhere on the body, dogs are only able to sweat through their paws. To keep cool, they expel heat by panting but as temperatures rise, it becomes harder for the dog to cool down by panting as they are drawing in warmer air than they are releasing.

"Their fur coats add to this problem by retaining heat and preventing heat loss.

“Your dog is most at risk of sunstroke when exercising on hot days. If your dog is experiencing sunstroke, there are some clear tell-tale signs to look out for. These include excessive panting, drooling, bright red gums, shaking and vomiting.

“If your dog is showing any of these signs you should act immediately. Begin by taking them to a shaded area so they can start to cool down.

"Place cool, wet towels over their body, paying particular attention to the neck, armpits and between the hind legs. You can also wet their ears and paw pads with cool (not ice cold) water.

“Ensure your pet has access to water but don’t allow them to drink too quickly as there is a risk they may inhale it. If they won’t drink, keep their tongue wet by putting water on it carefully.

"The most important thing to remember is to never give ice to a dog suffering from sunstroke, as this can cause their system to go into shock.

"Once you’ve followed these first aid steps, take them to a vet as quickly as possible to seek expert advice.

“When temperatures reach 24°C, sunstroke becomes a high possibility and extreme caution should be taken, particularly with large, very young or flat-faced dogs.

"At 28°C, the heat becomes dangerous for all dogs but life-threatening for larger breeds, puppies or flat-faced dogs again. You should never walk a dog or allow a dog to sit in the sun once it becomes 32°C or hotter as at this temperature, sunstroke is a major risk for all dogs regardless of condition, size or breed.”

According to Animal Friends data, the breeds most at risk of developing serious sunstroke include Bull breeds, terriers and Labradors. You should take particular care to keep them safe during warm weather.

Dehydration

Dogs need plenty of water when hot. The average claim cost for dehydration over the last year was more than £2503, according to Animal Friends.

Spot dehydration in your dog with signs that include sunken eyes, lethargy, loss of appetite, weak pulse, a dry mouth and collapsing.

Why you must not leave dogs in a hot car:

To test your dog for dehydration, check for a 'skin tent'. Use your thumb and forefinger to gently pinch a little skin on the back of their neck, then let go. If they are well hydrated, the skin should spring back as soon as you release it. As your pet gets dehydrated, it will move back into place more slowly.

In most severe cases of dehydration, it does not spring back at all. This test can be tricky in older animals, those with thick or long-hair coats or breeds with excessive skin folds. If you are unsure if your dog is dehydrated, speak to your vet.

Dr Webster said: "Provide plenty of cool water around different areas of your home. A dog should drink on average around 50 to 60ml of water per kg of body weight each day, but this will vary depending on breed, size and condition.

For example, a 25kg dog should drink 1.25-1.5 litres per day. If your dog is left outside for any period of time, make sure it has access to shade and water. If supervised, a shallow paddling pool can also be a great way to help your dog cool off in the heat.

“If walking your dog for any length of time in the sun, always bring water and remember to take frequent breaks in shaded areas to prevent avoidable dehydration.”

According to Animal Friends data, the breeds with the highest number of claims for dehydration in the last 12 months include Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Pomeranians and other small dogs, so if you own a small dog keep a close eye on it when temperatures rise.

Burnt paws

Burnt paws can be very painful! Dr. Webster advises: “To test the temperature of the surface your dog is going to walk on, try holding the back of your hand against it for seven seconds - if it is too hot for your hand, it is too hot for your dog’s paws!

“To avoid causing discomfort to your dog, it’s really important that you consider the time of day at which you take them for their daily walk. You should always avoid midday as this tends to be the hottest time.

"Instead, try to walk them early in the morning or later in the evening when the sun is less strong and the ground is much cooler. If you can’t avoid the heat of the day, try to walk in grassy areas such as local fields or forests so you can avoid hot pavements.

“Booties can help protect your dog’s paws from hot surfaces but you may need to take some time to train your dog to tolerate them.

“It is also worth noting that if you have astroturf in your garden, that this will heat up quickly if under direct sunlight and so should be treated in the same way as the pavement. Don’t allow your dog to stay sitting here during hotter parts of the day.”

Sunstroke symptoms:

Excessive panting

Pale or dry gums

Hyperventilation

Increased salivation

Diarrhoea

Vomiting

Increased heartbeat

Weakness

Confusion

Rectal bleeding

Data revealed that the following breeds are considered to be at most risk of developing sunstroke;

French Bulldog, English Bulldog, Bulldog, British Bulldog, Labrador, Jack Russell Terrier, Bichon Frise, West Highland White Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Greyhound.

Animal Friends pet insurance partnered with Dr. Samantha Webster, vet at Joii Pet Care to carry out research and alert people to the dangers of summer heatwaves for their pets.

Photos: Pexels

To learn more about Animal Friends Insurance, visit: https://www.animalfriends.co.uk/