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Keeping Your Pets Cool in the Heat


All facts in this blog were provided by experts in The Vet Connection who operate the An Post Insurance 24-hour Vet Helpline.

While the good weather is fun for us, it can pose a danger to our pets, as dogs and cats are at risk of heat stroke in the summer months. Remember, dogs and cats do not sweat like humans, so their primary cooling method is panting. When the temperature outside gets close to matching the body temperature, panting becomes ineffective, leaving your pet at risk of heat stroke.

cat looking up at the sun

Although all animals can overheat, pets that are obese or are brachycephalic (including flat-nosed breeds such as pugs or Persian cats) are more susceptible to heat stroke as it becomes increasingly difficult for them to use their airway to pant effectively.

Signs of heatstroke

  • Faster, heavier breathing or panting
  • Thirstier than normal
  • Increased respiratory noise – even more so in flat-faced dogs
  • Visible distress
  • Bright red tongue or gums
  • Rapid heart rate or pulse
  • Excessive drooling
  • Shaking
  • Loss of coordination
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
  • Weakness, lethargy, or collapse
  • Semi or complete loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Death

This may seem like a frightening and long list of symptoms but knowing these will help you take swift action to cool your pet and call your vet. 

Top tips to reduce the risks

Dog laying in water with its tongue out

  • Never walk your dog in the sun or heat — even cloudy days can be too warm.  Dogs don’t die from missing one walk, but they can die from being walked in the heat.
  • Walk brachycephalic dogs on a harness, not a collar, especially not a half or full-choke collar.
  • Never leave a dog in a hot car.
  • Always ensure your dog has plenty of access to water.
  • Be mindful of your dog’s weight. It’s important to keep all dogs within a healthy weight bracket, but even more so for our squishy-faced friends. The more weight they carry, the more they struggle with movement and the hotter they become.

What to do if you suspect your dog is too hot

Now that we know what the signs of heatstroke are and how to plan to avoid them, here are some extra tips for cooling your dog if you suspect they may be displaying signs of heatstroke:

  • Avoid exercising your dog in the heat of the day. Mornings and evenings are usually cooler and remember the five-second rule: if it hurts your hand to touch the pavement for five seconds then it will hurt your dog’s paws to walk on it!
  • Remove your pet from the heat and keep them in a cool, well-ventilated environment. A fan is always beneficial.
  • Avoid stressing your pet; keep them calm with a soothing tone of voice and give them cool but not freezing water to drink. Never use freezing or very cold water to cool your dog, as this can cause shock. Use tepid water only.
  • Lay them on a wet towel, which again shouldn’t be freezing cold. Slowly start to wet their ears, feet and fur. A spray bottle can be good for this.
  • Continue to actively cool your dog on the journey to the vet, ideally in an air-conditioned car.
  • Parasites love the warmer weather so make sure your pet’s flea and tick treatments are up to date too.
  • Finally, never let your pet rest for too long in direct sunlight – this includes inside conservatories, in front of windows, out in the garden and NEVER inside a car.

This may seem like a frightening and long list of symptoms but knowing these will help you take swift action to cool your pet and call your vet. 

An Post Insurance Pet Insurance includes a 24-hour helpline, which is operated by The Vet Connection 365 days a year and gives policy holders access to their national network of Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons-registered veterinary nurses.  Policy holders can call one of their registered veterinary nurses on 01 913 1067 for advice at any time.

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An Post Insurance Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by Cover-More Blue Insurance Services Limited and underwritten by H.W. Kaufman Group Europe BV, trading as Cranbrook, on behalf of the insurer, Sava Insurance Company. 

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