Australia is famed for its fab summers, though temperatures can soar into the 40°C territory for days on end. As well as plenty of dog-friendly picnics, beach walks and holidays at home during this social season, it can also mean more alone time for our four-legged friends when we are out and about, and a time they can be exposed to sun-related risks including dehydration and burns (both standard sunburns and those you get from touching overheated surfaces). But with a little extra care, you can keep your dog cool in the summer heat.
Cars and high temperatures never mix
Rule number one of pet ownership: never leave your dog unattended in your car, not even for 30 seconds.
Lyn White, campaign director for Animals Australia, says even on cloudy days, the temperature inside your car will increase very quickly and having the windows down won’t help. She says dogs are especially prone to heat exhaustion, and an increase in body temperature of just two or three degrees can be fatal. On average, a dog’s internal body temperature is 38 to 39 degrees. An internal body temp of 40 degrees means your dog needs to see a vet — and at 41 degrees they can suffer organ failure and brain damage.
The RSPCA reports even on mild days the temperature inside your car rises rapidly to dangerous levels. When the ambient temperature is 22°C, the temperature inside a car can rise to more than 47°C in 60 minutes. The high temperatures in the car, combined with inadequate air slow, means your dog cannot thermo-regulate, leaving it vulnerable to over-heating. Not only can this be fatal, but animals in these conditions suffer horribly.
Water is vital!
Always ensure your four-legged friend has fresh, clean water every day — and lots of it. Lyn recommends checking your pet’s water as frequently as possible — at least before leaving the house and when you return every day.
Heatstroke and how to recognise it
Dogs left out in the heat without adequate access to shade and water may develop heatstroke quite quickly, and learning to recognise it and treat it could save a life. The RSPCA says the signs and symptoms of heatstroke may vary between dogs, but commonly include:
- Incessant panting (increases as heat stroke progresses), drooling or salivating
- Agitation, restlessness, dizziness, staggering or signs of mental confusion or delirium
- Very red or pale gums or a bright-red tongue
- Increased heart rate, breathing distress, muscle tremors or seizures
- Vomiting, diarrhoea (possibly with blood) or little to no urine production
- Lethargy, weakness, collapsing and lying down or appearing comatose
Even if you think your dog is recovering or only suffering from a mild dose of heat stroke, take it to your vet ASAP for a check over as it can lead to death very quickly. Also be aware that simply providing plenty of water may not help if your dog has started developing these symptoms.