Writing about heatwave tips on a hot spring morning… “Groundbreaking”, I know. Though I’d rather talk about it than don’t. For the love of dogs.
The early morning walks are back! We are out at 6am balancing on the edge of the heatwave like a bunch of newbie surfers… The bodies are almost there, but the minds are still hollow, unconscious, slowly letting go of the vivid dreams from a night before. It’s not easy but that’s the only way to enjoy the air before it’s sucked into the hot vacuum.
Luckily, Cooper is an early bird and takes great pride of waking me up on time. Coop, like a true aesthete, never misses sunrises unless, of course, he had a late night and requires an extra hour in bed… The boy puts great value into his beauty sleep. Almost as much as he does into his diet, grooming and fun. I think if I followed Cooper’s life rules I’d look like a top model. A short one, mind you, but a proper head-to-toe model.
Alas, here we are… Eyes barely opened, walking through a sleepy village on an autopilot… We get a good hour of joy from this and I feel content knowing that the boys will be set for the day.
Even though my lot don’t seem to be particularly bothered by very hot weather, I still prefer to be sensible to protect them in every way I can.
We walk very early in the morning and late at night to avoid the heat and humidity. Midday walks are an absolute no-no because any form of activity can cause heatstroke.
Dogs can easily burn paws on hot pavements, so walking on grass is much safer. You can also do a hand test – place your hand on the pavement with the back of the hand against the surface. Hold for 5 seconds. If you feel the heat or burn, stay home.
We carry water with us at all times. The weather changes to rapidly, it’s easy to be caught off guard in a middle of nowhere with the dogs needing a drink. If necessary, water can also be used to wet their tummies and paws to prevent overheating.
The pups have an easy access to drinking water 24/7. I leave a bowl in every room and also have one for the porch (which I always take indoor in the evening, so the slugs don’t accidentally crawl in)
Windows are opened all day to create a flow of air and keep the floors cool. We are lucky to have stone floors that can get borderline cold even on a hot day. If your floor is warm, you can use damp towels, cooling pads or cooling mats to give a dog a spot to chill.
Pups have a shady spot in the garden and plenty of dens indoors to avoid direct sun, but I never rely on them to decide when to get back indoors. Coop, if given a chance, would probably sunbathe for hours, and Fred would stick around because he mimics Cooper in everything.
We are the “stay at home” kind of folks, but if you choose to drive, please remember to have all windows opened, plenty of water for the dog and only go ahead with any journey if your dog is cool and comfortable. It’s also worth checking if the places you are planning to visit are definitely dog-friendly.
If you take your dog for a swim, stick with cooler times of the day, watch out for blue green algae in lakes and ponds, don’t let your dog drink salty water if you are at the seaside and rinse his coat and paws thoroughly upon return.
Never ever leave your dog in the car. Please do not rely on air con and windows. It can get extremely hot within minutes regardless of what you do putting your dog at risk of heatstroke.
Remember that heatstroke can happen quickly, so it is important to know the signs including…
… heavy panting & breathing difficulties
… excessive drooling & thick saliva
… bright red tongue & mucus membranes
… drowsiness, and loss of coordination
… bloody diarrhoea
… collapse & coma
The risk of heatstroke is higher for dogs who are overweight, suffer from seizures, heart or lung disease, or have to wear a muzzle.
It is an emergency situation, so you need to contact your vet immediately. At the same time you need to help your dog by moving him to a well-ventilated space, away from sun and heat; spraying him with cool or room temperature (never cold!) water and wetting his paws and growing area and allowing the water to evaporate. If he can drink, give him cool water. Never use cold and ice-cold water or ice!
Once his temperature drops to 39C, dry the dog to prevent further cooling and hypothermia and take him to the vets for further treatment unless the vet already advised you on a course of action.
There are also a few other important things you need to be aware of when the temperatures soar and the sun is out. Some are more obvious than the others, but I’ll give you a full list, just in case.
Dark coloured dogs are likely to get hot quicker.
Dogs do not produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. They don’t need to stay outside in the sun for a “top up” – their intake comes from the food bowl.
Dogs with light brown or pink nose can get a sun burn. It’s best to keep these pooches away from the direct sun, and use coconut oil and shea butter nose balms because these oils provide some natural SPF and are completely safe if licked.
Dogs cannot sweat efficiently because paws are the only place they have sweat glands. That is why it takes them longer to cool down.
Grooming is essential and can help to keep your spaniel cool, but remember that properly groomed double coat is much more effective at controlling the natural temperature mechanism than the coat that has been clipped, especially if it’s been clipped on several occasions. When the cocker is hand stripped the natural top coat gives some protection from UV rays, reflects the light off the surface of the body and keeps the skin cool. If the dog is clipped, the top coat and undercoat fluff end up in a mixture of hairs that stops the air reaching the skin, traps the heat and is no longer effective against sun burn.
Ice cubes are ok for some dogs, but since they can be a choking hazard and can potentially cause tooth injuries (we are talking about cockers here, these guys can get into all sorts of trouble!), you need to supervise your dog while he is enjoying them.
Ice cubes and ice cold water must never be given to a dog who is suffering from heatstroke. Cold water and ice can cause rapid narrowing of the blood vessels affecting the natural cooling mechanism and trapping the heat inside the body leading to organ failure and coma.
Hose pipe water game may be fun as long as your dog doesn’t swallow too much water. If he does, it can affect electrolyte levels (the balance of sodium and potassium in the body) and cause hyponatremia or water intoxication. The condition can affect several organs and body system and be fatal if left untreated.
Artificial grass looks very smart, but it can get almost as hot as tarmac. A study conducted in 2007-2008 concluded that some types of synthetic grass can heat up to 75C during heatwave! Bear this in mind if your dog normally like to relax in the garden and keep him away from the synthetic lawn.
Now we’ve got everything covered, it’s time to have some fun and make happy memories. Because heatwaves never really last long in England, but memories will be with us forever.
Image credit: Cooper photographed by me as pup hiding in a shade during his very first heatwave, Fabian Steinmetz, kian2018, Goran Horvat, Tobias Heine, DerWeg, Henrikas Mackevicius