Dog on a hot day

Dogs at risk of overheating on hot walks

Dog owners have been urged to take extra caution when walking or exercising their pets during the summer heat because of the risk of overheating.

A new study has found that exercise is by far the most common trigger for heat-related illness in dogs, and the risk is greater in flat-faced (‘brachycephalic’) breeds such as English Bulldogs, Pugs and French Bulldogs.

Dog and owner

Research from the VetCompass Programme at the Royal Veterinary College in collaboration with Nottingham Trent University shows that of the common ‘trigger situations’ for heat-related illness in dogs — such as exercise in the heat, hot weather, humidity and vehicle travel — exercise on a hot day accounts for almost three quarters of heat-related illness cases (74%) seen by UK vets. More than one in ten cases are triggered by hot weather more generally, and 5% are as a result of dogs being confined in a vehicle.

As animal welfare charity Blue Cross explains, dogs can’t sweat through their skin like we do and so they rely on panting and releasing heat through their paw pads and nose to regulate their body temperature and keep cool.

Heat-related illness occurs when a dog is no longer able to maintain a safe body temperature.

“It doesn’t take a great amount of exercise to have potentially dangerous effects when the weather is hot or humid,” said Dr Dan O’Neill, chair of the Brachycephalic Working Group. “In hotter weather, we urge owners to consider exercising their dogs in the early morning or late evenings when temperatures are cooler and to be especially careful with breeds that are flat-faced in order to avoid potentially devastating heat-related illness in their dogs.”

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