Dog Breeds Susceptible to Heatstroke: Protecting Our Four-Legged Friends
As summer is now upon us, the weather should begin to warm up and (fingers crossed) have more sunny days. Whilst it can be a lovely time for us humans, our beloved dogs can really feel the heat and it can be an uncomfortable time for them. If not monitored, and correct measures put in place, they can suffer from heatstroke; a life-threatening condition.
Certain breeds are particularly susceptible to heatstroke. Understanding which breeds are more vulnerable can help pet owners take the necessary precautions to protect them during spells of warmer weather.
Brachycephalic (Flat Faced) Breeds
Dogs do not sweat to cool themselves down, like we do. Instead, they draw in air over their tongues to expel heat (Blue Cross). Dogs with flat faces, such as Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston Terriers have been bred to have shortened snouts. Unfortunately, this breeding has compromised and shortened their airways. This means that they are less effective at regulating their body temperature, leaving them prone to overheating. This risk is increased if your dog is overweight or elderly.
Breeds with double coats, which consist of a dense undercoat and a longer outer coat, face challenges in coping with hot weather. Dogs such as Huskies, Malamutes, Samoyeds, and Chow Chows have thick fur designed for cold climates. While their coats provide insulation during winter, they can trap heat in the summer, increasing the risk of heatstroke. However, whilst you may be thinking of running to the nearest groomer to get your dog shaved, this actually increases the chance of your dog developing heatstroke. Whilst it is true that a double-coated dog’s inner coat retains heat, it actually can keep cool air trapped (American Kennel Club).
Instead of clipping your dog, regular brushing can remove any dead hair and keep your dog more comfortable.
Large and Heavy Breeds
Breeds such as Saint Bernards, Newfoundlands, and Bernese Mountain Dogs are more prone to heatstroke due to their size and weight. Their bulkier bodies generate more internal heat, and their size makes it harder for them to dissipate it. Additionally, these breeds often have thick fur, which adds to their heat retention. Extra caution should be exercised when exercising or exposing these breeds to hot temperatures.
More energetic dogs, such as Greyhounds, English Springer Spaniels and Border Collies may be more susceptible to developing heatstroke simply because they don’t know when to stop! Working dogs have an incredible amount of stamina and will keep on working, even when conditions become unsafe. It’s really important to keep an eye out for any signs of heatstroke and offer plenty of opportunities for breaks with cool fresh water.
If you have an incredibly active dog, maybe consider lots of water play and exercising your pooch either early or late in the day.
Preventing Heatstroke In Any Dog
Prevention is always better than a cure. Adopting these techniques can create a more comfortable environment for your pooch, ensuring heatstroke is avoided.
Provide Ample Shade and Water: Create shaded areas in your yard or use umbrellas and tarps to shield your dog from direct sunlight. Always ensure a constant supply of fresh, cool water is available to keep them hydrated.
Limit Exercise During Peak Hours: Avoid vigorous exercise during the hottest parts of the day. Opt for walks and playtime in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler.
Use Cooling Aids: Utilise cooling mats, vests, or bandanas specifically designed to help lower a dog's body temperature. These products use materials that retain coolness and can provide relief.
Never Leave Dogs in Cars: Even with the windows cracked and leaving the car in a shady area, a parked car can quickly become a deadly environment for a dog. Never leave your dog in a vehicle, as temperatures can skyrocket within minutes. Be safe, rather than sorry and leave your dog at home.
Be Aware of Signs of Heatstroke: Familiarise yourself with the signs of heatstroke, including excessive panting, drooling, lethargy, vomiting, and collapse. The RSPCA have written a really informative guide on heatstroke and Emergency First Aid you can administer.
If you suspect heatstroke, seek immediate veterinary care.