KEEPING DOGS COOL IN A HEATWAVE
In the UK it is so rare to see glorious sunshine, when the summer arrives we all want to be outside basking in the heat wave. It always seems like a great idea to take the dog for a walk so you can enjoy the nice weather before it disappears. It’s great for us with our furless bodies and access to stop and drink or take shade whenever we want. For our four legged companions a walk in the sunshine is not always so much fun.
For us, as dog walkers, it’s a great time of year but we are always mindful of our clients and their need to stay cool and enjoy their walks with us without overheating. Heatstroke can be deadly for dogs, we take our responsibility very seriously when we’re out with our canine customers. It goes without saying we always try to stay in the shade, often using woodlands to keep dogs out of the basking sunshine and off the red hot pavements. Here are just a few of the things we do to ensure exercise is fun, safe and cool for the dogs.
Yes, it’s obvious but it’s amazing how many people are out and about with their dogs and no sign of any water. Or you see people sat outside a cafe slowly sipping their juice and the dog panting by their feet with no access to water. It is not enough to offer water before and after a walk, it needs to be accessible to the dogs during the walk too. Often we find dogs have just as much energy in the hot weather, for the first 10 minutes at least, then they slow because they are becoming dehydrated, water needs to be offered as soon as the dog starts panting. If it’s a particularly hot day we also dribble water along their backs.
For the glorious summer months a paddling pool is ideal, although probably not out on a walk. Plan your routes ahead of time and look for safe and clean (as possible) streams and rivers along the way that your dog can have a paddle or swim in. Depending on the breed and personality of the dog some will go splashing around quite happily, whilst other breeds might need a little encouragement, be prepared, you might have to get your feet wet and help them in. Please remember, it is a common misconception that all dogs can swim so ensure your dog is not out of their depth or panicking in the water.
The breeze coming through the car windows is great for us humans, because we naturally sweat the cool air on our skin and the sweat cool us down. As we all know, dogs don’t sweat, they pant and can lose heat through their pads so a breeze is of little help to dogs trying to cool down. You may have noticed at home your dog gravitates towards kitchen or bathroom tiles to lie on, the cold surface on their belly helps to instantly cool them. You can apply the same principle in your car. In our vans we have cold tiles to go at the bottom of the crates and cool the dogs down after their walk and swim (please be aware, tiles left in hot cars warm up so end up having the opposite effect – please check). If this is not an option, freeze a plastic bottle ready for your journey, wrap it in a thin towel and place it near the dog so he can lean on it if he starts to feel too hot.
Along with your picnic basket you’ll need to pack a cool bag for the dog. This can include water and ice cubes for the all-important hydration but you can also make and pack some ice treats to make their walk more enjoyable and keep them cool. Our favourite is simply to drain the spring water from a can of tuna and add it to an ice cube tray, include some of the tuna flakes, some finely chopped veg and freeze with a little water. You then have a frozen fishy treat for your canine buddy. The summer should be a great time for everyone and every creature. What can be better than a nice walk in the sunshine with your canine companion? By planning your journey and ensuring your dog has access to shade, water and a paddle, the experience will be enjoyable and rewarding for both of you.