While most of us look forward to soaking up a few rays in the summer sun when it comes out, our four-legged friends are probably thinking otherwise.
Unlike their human counterparts, dogs cannot enjoy a refreshing iced drink or luxuriate in the cool of a gentle breeze through light summer clothes.
Our hot and hairy hounds need a little extra help to keep them happy and healthy this summer, and animal welfare organisations are anxious to alert owners to the potential perils for their pets.
Overexposure to the sun presents problems for animals as they cannot sweat though their skin in the same way as humans. Dogs cool down by sweating through glands in their feet and panting so it is vital owners help their canine companions to stay cool. Both the Dogs’ Trust and the RSPCA warn that warm or hot weather can be extremely uncomfortable for pets and cause distress, suffering and even lead to death.
It urges owners to avoid leaving animals in cars, caravans, conservatories or outbuildings – even if they are in the shade – during sunny spells as temperatures can quickly rise to a potentially fatal 47 degrees C (117 degrees F).
Whilst enjoying fun in the sun please remember that dogs can suffer from the same problems that humans do including overexposure to the sun, overheating, dehydration and even sunburn. Dog owners can keep their hounds happy this summer by following Dogs Trust’s advisory points. Pets should never be left in direct sunlight and need to be able to access a cool shady spot to escape from the sun at all times of the day.
They also require a constant supply of clean, fresh drinking water to replace water lost through sweating and panting. Without this, your canine companion could become dehydrated, so it is important to check and fill bowls regularly. And remember to bring a supply of water if you and your pal are taking a car journey. Animals still need exercise when it is hot but should not be allowed to exercise too much in the heat of the day. Experts recommend walking dogs early in the morning or later in the evening, when it is cooler, and make sure shady spots and water are available.
Pets can also get sunburnt, especially those with light coloured noses, or light-coloured fur on their ears. Human sunscreen can be toxic to our four-legged friends so buy a special pet version and apply to areas most likely to burn – ears, nose, and bellies.
Owners of very hairy hounds should also ensure their pooches are clipped to ease the weight of their summer coats. Most importantly, it is vital to be alert to the symptoms of heatstroke, which can be fatal. Signs include excessive panting, heavy salivation, rapid pulse, very red gums/tongue, lethargy, lack of co-ordination, being unable to get up after collapsing, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in extreme cases, loss of consciousness.
Extra vigilance is needed with older, short-nosed, and overweight dogs as they are more prone to overheat. If you suspect that your pet has heatstroke, move it to a shaded area, wet thoroughly with cool water (never iced) and use a household fan to blow cool air over their head and body while seeking urgent veterinary advice. Remember, under the Animal Welfare Act owners have a legal duty to care for their animals, which includes preventing suffering. Penalties are a fine of up to £20,000 and/or up to 51 weeks in prison.