Image: Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

We’re in the middle of another heatwave and as much as we can celebrate not having to deal with muddy pawprints in the house, actually it’s a pretty miserable time to be a dog owner.

Unless we give light exercise in the early hours of the morning, the rest of the day is just too warm to enjoy a walkies – with pavements too hot for paws, and the risk of sunstroke with our furry friends unable to cope with the record-breaking temperatures.

Vet Samantha Webster, a vet at Joii Pet Care, has teamed up with Animal Friends pet insurance to explain the four chief dangers of the current heatwave.



If you’ve ever questioned whether dogs can get sunburnt or suffer from sunstroke, the answer is yes. In the current heatwave, dogs are just as susceptible to sunburn as humans even with their fur providing some level of protection.

Dr Webster says, “Although thick coats of fur do block sun rays to a certain degree, the skin underneath is still prone to sunburn. Those areas that aren’t protected by a thick layer of fur, such as the nose, ear tips or stomach, are even more vulnerable.

“Some dogs are also more susceptible to sunburn than others. For example, white dogs or those with thin coats such as Staffordshire Bull Terriers, are at a higher risk.

“Sunburn can be painful for your pet. To help prevent sunburn on hot days, rub pet-friendly sun cream into your dog’s more visible areas and ensure you keep time in the direct sunlight to a minimum. If you’re unsure about the best type to use, you should always check with your vet.

“If you notice that your pet’s skin is a bit pinker than usual after a day in the sun, then a cold compress can really help to soothe any soreness. Signs of severe sunburn include redness, blisters and crusty sores – these can be really painful and will need treatment from your vet.”



As well as sunburn, dogs can suffer from sunstroke in warm weather, so it’s important to understand the signs during the current heatwave. Dr Webster says, “Sunstroke happens when a dog or pet is unable to effectively regulate their body temperature. Unlike humans who can sweat from just about anywhere on the body, dogs are only able to sweat through their paws. To keep cool, they expel heat by panting but as temperatures begin to rise, it becomes harder for the dog to cool down by panting as they are drawing in warmer air than they are releasing. Their fur coats add to this problem by retaining heat and preventing heat loss.

“Your dog is most at risk of sunstroke when exercising on hot days. If your dog is experiencing sunstroke, there are some clear tell-tale signs to look out for. These include excessive panting, drooling, bright red gums, shaking and vomiting.

“If your dog is showing any of these signs you should act immediately. Begin by taking them to a shaded area so they can start to cool down. Place cool, wet towels over their body, paying particular attention to the neck, armpits and between the hind legs. You can also wet their ears and paw pads with cool (not ice cold) water.

“Ensure your pet has access to water but don’t allow them to drink too quickly as there is a risk they may inhale it. If they won’t drink, keep their tongue wet by putting water on it carefully. The most important thing to remember is to never give ice to a dog suffering from sunstroke, as this can cause their system to go into shock. Once you’ve followed these first aid steps, take them to a vet as quickly as possible to seek expert advice.

“Once temperatures reach 24°C, sunstroke becomes a high possibility and extreme caution should be taken, particularly with large, very young or flat-faced dogs. At 28°C, the heat becomes dangerous for all dogs but life-threatening for larger breeds, puppies or flat-faced dogs again. You should never walk a dog or allow a dog to sit in the sun once it becomes 32°C or hotter as at this temperature, sunstroke is a major risk for all dogs regardless of condition, size or breed.”

According to Animal Friends data, the breeds most at risk of developing serious sunstroke include bull breeds, terriers and Labradors. If you own any of these breeds, you should pay extra attention to keep them safe during the heatwave.



Just as us humans tend to feel a little thirstier in the summer months, dogs need plenty of water when hot. The average claim cost for dehydration over the last year was more than £2503, according to Animal Friends.

Dr Webster explains how to spot dehydration in your dog, saying, “Dehydration in dogs can happen easily, particularly during the warmer summer months – especially whilst on walks. Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, lethargy, loss of appetite, weak pulse, a dry mouth and collapsing.

“You can test your dog for dehydration by checking for a “skin tent”. Use your thumb and forefinger to gently pinch a little skin on the back of their neck, then let go. If they are well hydrated, the skin should spring back as soon as you release it. As your pet gets dehydrated, it will move back into place more slowly. In the most severe cases of dehydration, it does not spring back at all. This test can be tricky in older animals, those with thick or long-hair coats or breeds with excessive skin folds. If you are unsure if your dog is dehydrated, speak to your vet.

“To avoid this common problem, provide plenty of cool water around different areas of your home. A dog should drink on average around 50 to 60ml of water per kg of body weight each day, but this will vary depending on breed, size and condition. For example, a 25kg dog should drink 1.25-1.5 litres per day. If your dog is left outside for any period of time, make sure it has access to shade and water. If supervised, a shallow paddling pool can also be a great way to help your dog cool off in the heat.

“If walking your dog for any length of time in the sun, always bring water and remember to take frequent breaks in shaded areas to prevent avoidable dehydration.”

According to Animal Friends data, the breeds with the highest number of claims for dehydration in the last 12 months include Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Pomeranians and other small dogs, so if you own a small dog keep a close eye on it when temperatures rise.


Burnt paws

Can dogs paws get burnt during a heatwave? Yes, and it can be very painful! Dr Webster says, “One very common danger for cats and dogs alike in summer is hot surfaces, which can quickly result in sore and burnt paws. To test the temperature of the surface they are likely to walk on, try holding the back of your hand against it for at least seven seconds – if it is too hot for your hand, it is too hot for your furry companions.

“Whilst it won’t get as hot as tarmac or paving slabs, artificial grass can also pose a risk to your pet’s paws in summer.  It is really important to note that if you have artificial grass in your garden, this will heat up very quickly if under direct sunlight and so should be treated with the same caution as with pavement. With recent research suggesting that as many as one in ten homeowners in the UK have already replaced their natural lawn with artificial grass and a further 29% considering making the swap, this danger is set to be bigger than ever this summer.

“If your outside space does not have any natural grass (which stays much cooler), you should ensure you create areas of shade or place down cool, damp towels for them to rest on and avoid leaving them unoccupied. When the heat of the day has passed and temperatures drop significantly, you can safely allow them to wander freely outside – but again, do the seven-second temperature check if unsure.”

It goes without saying, but if you are concerned about your dog’s health during the heatwave, do not hesitate to seek immediate veterinary advice.

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