With sunshine finally arriving in West Berkshire, Dogs Trust, the nation’s largest dog welfare charity, is warning dog owners that too much exercise in warm weather – even as mild as those forecast for this weekend - can cause severe health problems for our canine companions.

While most dog lovers will be aware that extreme weather and heatwaves can be dangerous for dogs - sometimes even deadly - many will be unaware that exercising dogs in early summer temperatures can cause heatstroke in dogs. In some cases, heatstroke can prove fatal.

A recent study showed that nearly 75% of cases of heat-related illness in UK dogs were because of exertion, and over two thirds were just from walking only.

Brachycephalic, or “flat-faced”, breeds such as English Bulldogs, Pugs and French Bulldogs, are especially vulnerable in hot weather. Recent research from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in collaboration with Nottingham Trent University found that English Bulldogs are fourteen times more likely to suffer heat-related illness compared to Labrador Retrievers.

Over a third of owners of flat-faced dogs reported that heat regulation is a problem for their pet.

The symptoms of heatstroke can include panting heavily, drooling excessively, appearing lethargic, drowsy or uncoordinated, vomiting, diarrhoea, and collapsing.

Dogs Trust has shared the following advice to owners if they suspect their dog is experiencing heatstroke:

  • Act immediately to prevent your dog’s condition getting worse. 
  • Cool first, transport second.
  • Stop them from playing, walking or whatever activity they’re doing and move the dog to a shaded and cool area.
  • Start cooling them down urgently. For young, conscious, healthy dogs, this means immersing them in cold water, for example in a paddling pool if possible, keeping their head above water. Use any water available, provided it is cooler than your dog. If immersion is not possible, continuous dousing with cold water is an alternative. 
  • For older dogs or dogs with health conditions, spray them with room temperature water, avoiding their face, and combine with air movement from a breeze, fan or air conditioning. Place ice, wrapped in a tea towel to prevent ice burns, in their groin and armpits.  
  • Always closely monitor cooling and stop if you notice signs of shivering 
  • Don’t place a wet towel over them as this can raise their temperature. 
  • Call your vet urgently for further advice and transport them there as quickly as is safely possible. Keep the air conditioning on in the car or the windows open. 
  • If your dog has collapsed or is struggling to breathe, call your nearest vet immediately.  

Dogs Trust also advises that dogs should never be left alone in cars as even just a few minutes in a hot car can prove fatal.

As dogs can’t cool down the same way as humans, the heat can quickly become dangerous for them.  

If you see a dog in a car in distress, the charity advises that members of the public call 999 immediately.