Warm weather advice
Keep your dog happy and healthy in warm weather with our tips for safe fun in the sun.
Top tips for staying safe in hot weather
- Provide shade and water - Make sure your dog has access to shade and plenty of fresh water throughout the day.
- Plan your walkies - Walk your dog in the early morning or late in the evening when temperatures are cooler. This will reduce their risk of heatstroke. Be particularly careful if your dog is old, overweight, suffers from breathing difficulties or is a flat faced breed like Pugs, French Bulldogs or English Bulldogs.
- Familiarise yourself with signs of heatstroke and cooling first aid - The ability to identify if your dog is overheating and knowing how to administer cooling first aid could be lifesaving. Keep reading to learn more about this.
- Do the five-second tarmac test - Tarmac can get very hot in the sun and could burn your dog’s paws. Check the pavement with your hand before letting your dog walk on it – hold your hand down for five seconds, if it's too hot for you, then we recommend walking your dog later when it’s cooled down to avoid burning their paws.
- Don't let your dog get burnt - Keep your dog out of direct sunlight where you can. Use pet-safe sun cream on exposed parts of your dog’s skin, like the tips of their ears and nose. Ask your vet for more advice if needed.
- Check ahead for adventures - If you're planning a day out somewhere, check whether dogs are welcome. Some public parks and beaches may have Public Space Protection Orders or Dog Control Orders at certain times of year.
Why is overheating dangerous for dogs?
Getting too hot can be really risky for our four-legged friends. They can’t sweat (except through their paws), so they rely on panting as their main way to get rid of heat. Panting is less efficient than sweating, especially when it is humid.
Heat related illness is sometimes called ‘heat stress’, ‘heat exhaustion’ or ‘heatstroke’ - these terms describe increasing severity of heat related illness. You might think it’s only a problem in the summer months or during warm weather, but dogs can overheat at any temperature, and any time of year including during winter. A recent study has shown that a significant number of dogs were diagnosed with heatstroke when the temperature was only 16.9 degrees Celsius.*
In fact, exercise is the main trigger. A recent study found that nearly 75% of cases of heat-related illness in UK dogs were because of exertion. And 67.5% of cases were just from walking only, so even moderate exercise can cause dogs to overheat.
What are the signs of heat related illness in dogs?
Heavy or continuous panting, even when they’ve stopped exercise
- It may look like your dog is ‘smiling’ because they pull up the corners of their mouth to pant harder
- Their tongue may be hanging out more
- Their eyes might look ‘squinty’
Difficulty breathing or changes to their breathing
Bright pink/ red gums and lips
Seeming lethargic, drowsy, stiff or unwilling to move
Seeming wobbly or uncoordinated
Vomiting and diarrhoea
The most common heatstroke symptoms are breathing changes (panting excessively or changes to breathing effort) and lethargy or drowsiness.
What should I do if my dog gets too hot?
Act immediately to prevent your dog’s condition getting worse. If your dog has collapsed or is struggling to breathe, call your nearest vet immediately.
Cool first, transport second. Take these steps to cool your dog down, then transport them to a vet:
Stop them from playing, walking or whatever activity they’re doing
Move the dog to a shaded and cool area
Offer them drinking water
Start cooling them down urgently
- For young, conscious, healthy dogs, this means immersing them in cold water (for example, in a paddling pool) if possible, keeping their head above water. Use any water available, provided it is cooler than your dog. If immersion is not possible, continuous dousing with cold water is an alternative.
- For older dogs or dogs with health conditions, spray them with room temperature water, avoiding their face, and combine with air movement from a breeze, fan or air conditioning. Place ice wrapped in a tea towel (to prevent ice burns) in their groin and armpits.
- Always closely monitor cooling and stop if you notice signs of shivering
Don’t place a wet towel over them as this can raise their temperature.
Call your vet urgently for further advice and transport them there as quickly as is safely possible. Keep the air conditioning on in the car or the windows open.
Some dogs are more at risk than others
Heatstroke can affect any type of dog, but certain breeds and types of dogs are at increased risk:
Brachycephalic or flat-faced breeds such as English Bulldogs, Pugs and French Bulldogs
Overweight dogs or those with low fitness levels
Dogs with underlying health conditions or respiratory or heart diseases
Dogs not used to warm weather (if they’re used to living in a cooler climate like dogs in the UK)
According to research (from the VetCompass Programme at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in collaboration with Nottingham Trent University), Bulldogs are fourteen times more likely to suffer heat-related illness compared to Labrador Retrievers.** Over a third of owners of flat-faced dogs reported that heat regulation is a problem for their pet.***
Won’t my dog know when they’ve had enough?
We need to learn the signs of heatstroke and look out for these in our dogs to help them take a rest and cool down when they need to. Some dogs aren’t good at self-regulating and may continue to run and play even though they’re hot and tired, which increases their risk of heatstroke.
Never leave your dog in a vehicle
A dog could die in a hot car in just minutes. Winding a window down is not enough to help your dog stay cool.
Think twice about and car trips with your dog. If you do have to travel with your dog, plan your journey. Consider travelling at cooler times of the day, identify places to take breaks and avoid congested roads or busy times of day when you could get caught in traffic
What to do if you see a dog in distress in a hot car
In England and Wales
Call 999 and ask for the police.
Call 999 and ask for the police, and/or call the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) on 0300 099 9999.
Take down the registration number and contact An Garda Síochána on 112 or 999, or the National Animal Helpline on 0818 515 515 (Callers from outside the Republic of Ireland should use +353 43 33 25035).
In Northern Ireland
Call your regional Animal Welfare Officer or the PSNI on 999. Visit the ni.direct website for your regional Animal Welfare Officer contact numbers.
Keep cool with summer snacks
Our simple and easy summery treat recipes will help your dog stay cool and will give you fun activity to bond with your dog.
Beaches are a wonderful place to enjoy with your dog. Before heading out, check out our beach safety tips.
* Read the full study on: 'Risk Factors for Severe and Fatal Heat-Related Illness in UK Dogs—A VetCompass Study' by Hall, Emily J., Anne J. Carter, Guaduneth Chico, Jude Bradbury, Louise K. Gentle, Dominic Barfield, and Dan G. O’Neill. May, 2022.
** Read the full study on: 'Incidence and risk factors for heat-related illness (heatstroke) in UK dogs under primary veterinary care in 2016' by Hall, E.J., Carter, A.J. & O’Neill, D.G. June, 2020.
*** Read the full study on: 'Great expectations, inconvenient truths, and the paradoxes of the dog-owner relationship for owners of brachycephalic dogs' by Packer RMA, O'Neill DG, Fletcher F, Farnworth MJ. July, 2019.