All posts by HotDogsCanineHeatstroke

We are a team of researchers investigating heatstroke in dogs.

What you need to know to keep your dog safe in the heat this summer

Finally, the sun is starting to make a regular appearance in the UK again. The annual #DogsDieInHotCars campaign has officially launched (more on this shortly), which means summer is coming! And we have a new publication to share with you and some tips for risk assessing your dog’s safety in the warmer weather.

Our latest research paper reviewed all of our previous findings to identify the risk factors for severe and fatal heat-related illness (HRI). We also explored two important additional factors for UK dogs: location, and ambient temperature. If you want to read the full results they are available open access here:

Risk Factors for Severe and Fatal Heat-Related Illness in UK Dogs—A VetCompass Study

So which dogs are at greatest risk of heat-related illness?

Our previous research showed that overall, HRI is more likely to affect certain breeds (the Chow Chow, Bulldog, French Bulldog, Pug, Golden Retriever, Greyhound and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to name a few), dogs with flat-faces (brachycephalic dogs), overweight dogs, older dogs, large breed dogs and purebred dogs in more affected. We also know that exercise is the most common cause of HRI in UK dogs, triggering almost 75% of cases, and some breeds (those listed above plus the Labrador Retriever, English Springer Spaniel, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Border Collie) are more likely to develop HRI due following exercise.

But it is important to recognise that HRI is progressive disorder, meaning dogs start with mild disease but can progress to more severe, potentially fatal disease if their temperature continues to climb or remains too hot for too long. Over 90% of dogs presented for veterinary treatment with mild to moderate signs of HRI survived, whilst more than half of those presented with severe disease died. Our latest research paper specifically explored the factors that make severe and fatal HRI more likely once a dog is affected.

Which dogs are most likely to develop severe disease?

Severe HRI is characterised by vomiting and diarrhoea with blood present, repeated or continuous fitting (seizures), neurological damage (such as loss of consciousness and uncoordinated movement), bleeding disorders and kidney and liver damage. Less than half of the dogs with severe HRI will survive, despite veterinary treatment. If your dog develops HRI, the following factors make it more likely that they will develop severe disease:

AGE: Dogs aged 4 years or over (and particularly those aged 12 years or over) at more likely to develop severe HRI than dogs aged under 2 years of age. This is likely due to a number of reasons related to both lifestyle and lifestage. In people, young men are more likely to develop HRI caused by exercise because they are more physically active (either due to sports or physically demanding job roles). Older people are more at risk of environmental HRI (HRI triggered by heat waves or just hot weather) because they cannot cool down as effectively as mechanisms such as a sweating become less effective with age as heart function deteriorates. We suspect the same is true for our canine companions (whilst dogs do not sweat to cool, they still rely on mechanisms that need strong blood flow). Certainly older people and animals struggle to keep cool in the heat, and this is worsened by conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and breathing problems.

BODYWEIGHT: Dogs also have to obey the laws of physics so bigger, heavier dogs will get hotter quicker during exercise (more muscle to generate heat), and lose heat more slowly than small dogs. Dogs weighing under 10kg are less likely to develop severe HRI, and this is because they can cool more quickly, so don’t stay hot for as long as larger dogs. It could also be because small dogs are more likely to be carried, so if they get too hot we can pick them up, which helps to stop them getting hotter on walks.

EXPOSURE TO HEAT: This one is important. Dogs don’t die just in hot cars. Anything that causes a dog’s body temperature to rise and remain high can potentially lead to HRI, including hot weather, hot cars, hot buildings, being trapped in hot blankets, getting stressed at the groomers or at the vets, and most commonly getting hot whilst exercising. Dogs left in hot cars are more likely to develop severe disease compared to dogs that develop HRI following exercise. Why is this important? Because the key factors here IS YOU! If you leave your dog in a hot car, they are alone. Dogs don’t have thumbs, they can’t open the window to escape, you are leaving them to cook. UK cars can reach over 50°C, and can reach that temperature rapidly in direct sunshine. In comparison, dogs that develop HRI following exercise are usually with their owner, so you have an opportunity to spot the early signs of mild to moderate disease and take action before the disease can progress to the potentially deadly severe form.

That’s not to say that exercise induced HRI isn’t deadly, in fact more dogs died due to HRI following exercise than died following vehicular HRI, because the vast majority of dogs affected by HRI in the UK were triggered by exercise. So you can make a real difference here, and if the weather is heating up, stop and think carefully – if in doubt, don’t take them out!

This year (2022), the Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign has been expanded to include this new message, Dogs Die on Hot Walks, all down to our Hot Dogs research.

Which dogs are most at risk of dying from HRI

Unsurprisingly, dogs that develop severe HRI are most likely to die. In fact they have 65 times the odds of death compared to dogs that only develop mild disease – and remember these are all dogs that presented to a vet for treatment. So knowing the early signs of HRI, and taking action to prevent the condition from worsening by cooling, stopping exercise, getting the dog into a cool area and seeking veterinary treatment can save your dog’s life.

Again, older dogs (this time dogs aged 8 years or older) are more likely to die if they develop HRI. This is likely due to a number of factors, including the fact that older dogs are more likely to have underlying health problems that impact their odds of survival.

Dogs with flat faces (brachycephalic dogs) are more likely to die if they develop HRI. This one is really important. Note that being flat faced DID NOT increase the risk of developing severe HRI, and whilst we can’t prove why, we have a theory we urge all flat-faced dog owners to consider. The first sign that indicates your dog is too hot is panting. In a healthy dog with a healthy respiratory tract, panting is normal and incredibly effective at cooling. If your dog has ANY kind of respiratory disease – specifically brachycephalic obstructive airway disease or BOAS – then panting is not as effective (so they don’t cool as quickly) AND panting requires more work, meaning the muscles driving panting can end up generating more heat than the panting can lose. In severe cases (again BOAS but also laryngeal paralysis), panting can cause further narrowing of the airway, leading to a lack of oxygen, which can lead to cardiac arrest and ultimately death.

A French Bulldog panting before BOAS surgery to open up their airways. Note the very narrow nostrils that restrict airflow.

Not all flat-faced dogs have BOAS though, so this isn’t quite enough to explain this finding. But, remember the signs of moderate HRI include excessive salivation and vomiting, and can include fitting and collapse. Flat-faced dogs are at increased risk of aspiration pneumonia following vomiting (basically inhaling the vomit into the lungs causing massive damage to the lung tissue), which will again lead to a lack of oxygen, cardiac arrest and ultimately death. So if you own a flat-faced dog, you need to take even mild signs of HRI really seriously, and seek veterinary advice immediately as your dog is three times more likely to die than most.

Does it matter where my dog lives?

Perhaps not as much as you might think, and UK region didn’t increase the risk of either severe or fatal HRI for dogs affected by HRI. But we did find that dogs living in London were more likely to develop HRI than dogs living in the North-West. Overall, around 1 in 2500 dogs developed HRI in the UK during 2016, in London this increased to 1 in 1250 dogs.

We also found that dogs living in London were more likely to develop HRI following confinement in a hot building. Nationally, only 3% of canine HRI cases were caused by hot building confinement, but in London that figure rose to 7.6%. We suspect that the urban heat island effect (lots of concrete, tall and terraced buildings, and not enough trees) contributes to this finding. We also found that dogs living in London were much less likely to develop HRI following confinement in a hot car, the reason for this isn’t clear but may be due to different transport preferences with significantly fewer London households owning a car.

So, how hot is too hot?

We get asked this question A LOT, and I’m afraid we have come to the challenging conclusion that it’s just not that simple. We can’t give you a number. This is where risk assessment comes in. Lets take the Hot Dogs team as an example. Anne competes in both canicross and bikejor with her dogs, and is incredibly active and physically fit. If you send her out for a 5km run in 20°C, she’ll be fine (FYI she wouldn’t be taking her dogs at that temperature!). Emily is a self confessed sofa pumpkin (we explained this term previously), she hasn’t competed in any sports for many years now and is no where near as active as Anne and not very physically fit. She also has asthma, so there’s an underlying respiratory disease to consider as well as a greater bodyweight (ahem!). Firstly, Emily couldn’t run 5km even with zombies chasing her. If she tried, there is a very real risk she would develop HRI not matter the ambient temperature. Our dogs are just as variable, they will react differently to ambient temperatures depending on a whole host of factors including bodyweight, breed, skull shape, general health, physical fitness, acclimatisation, hydration status and even diet.

Even more concerning, in our latest paper we reported the highest daily “feels like” temperature (this is “wet bulb globe temperature”, which takes into account air temperature, humidity, wind speed and solar radiation) recorded at the nearest weather station to each HRI event we studied. The average (median) temperature was just 16.9°C. The lowest temperature was 3.3°C (for an exercise induced HRI case), whilst the highest temperature was 23.1°C. These are not high temperatures. In Israel a similar study found that 85% of HRI cases occurred on days with a feels like temperature of 24.1°C, so dogs in the UK develop HRI at much lower temperature than dogs living in hotter climates.

When judging temperature conditions for your dog, you also need to consider how temperature is being measured. We used local weather station data, meaning the temperatures were recorded in the shade. Your back garden, in full sun, with fences or hedges reducing wind and airflow, could be significantly hotter than the “feels like” temperature being reported on your weather app or weather forecast. If you have a lot of tarmac or artificial grass in your outdoor space, this will cause further heating and can even cause contact burns if your pet walks or lies on a hot surface.

So how do you keep your dog safe this summer?

Firstly, if in doubt, don’t take them out. No dog will die from a missed walk, but exertional HRI can be fatal. If you are travelling with your dog, then ensure you have carefully planned your journey and can take action should you break down or get stuck in traffic. Never leave your dog alone in a vehicle that could overheat.

Consider the conditions and the recent weather conditions:

  • Sudden hot spells are most dangerous as you dog can take about 6 weeks to acclimatise to heat.
  • Consider the time of day, early mornings are typically cooler, as usually the temperature drops overnight. Evenings can be hot and in particular the ground (where your dog will be walking/lying) may be very hot.
  • If you can exercise your dog in shaded areas like woodland, this can help limit their heat exposure.
  • If you are planning intense exercise with your dog, frankly anything over 10°C should be prompting a risk assessment.

Is your dog at greater risk?

  • Are they an at risk breed?
  • Are they flat-faced?
  • Do they have a respiratory condition such as laryngeal paralysis or BOAS?
  • Have then recently been unwell, this includes dehydration from not eating, vomiting or diarrhoea?
  • Are they physically fit?
  • Are they overweight or obese?
  • Are they a large breed dog?
  • Do they have a thick fluffy coat (this is particularly important for exercise, not so much for lazing around)?
  • Are they older?
  • If you answer yes to any of these questions then you need to take extra care when considering activity in even warm weather.

Make sure you can spot the early signs of HRI:

Being able to recognise the signs of mild HRI may save a life:

  • SPOT THEM – spotting the early signs will give you time to take action.
  • STOP THEM – from getting any hotter, e.g. stop the exercise, get them out of the hot car/building/garden.
  • SAVE THEM – seek veterinary treatment and cool them (using water)
Mild heat-related illness signs. Seeking veterinary treatment at this point will save lives.

Consider how you would respond if you dog developed HRI:

Things to consider include:

  • Access to water for cooling – cold water is ideal, so could be a stream, a lake, even a water trough or water from a bottle (although for big dogs a lot of water may be needed).
  • Transport to a vet – can you lift and carry your dog? If not, how far do you plan to be from a vehicle or help if your dog were to collapse?
  • Access to veterinary care – the UK (and international) veterinary profession is suffering from a serious workforce shortage, meaning some practices are struggling to provide a full service, and many practices are unable to take on new clients. If you are on holiday or away from home for the day, where is the nearest veterinary practice that could treat your dog in an emergency?

Unlike many conditions, you can protect your dog from heat-related illness, so make sure you take the risk seriously this summer and know the early signs so you can take action if the need arises. Remember, if in doubt, don’t take them out.

Hendricks napping on a hot day, staying safe by keeping cool out of the sun.

Baby its cold outside – Is the winter weather keeping your dog inside and inactive? You may regret this in the summer…

As much of the UK feels the chill of winter, it might be tempting to hide back under the duvet, snuggle up to your canine companion and hibernate until spring arrives. But how much exercise your dog does now, could make all the difference in the summer when the weather heats up. In this post we’re going to explore some of our recent research findings relating to weather and canine activity.

After keeping you all waiting for far too long, we finally had an opportunity to analyse the results from the canine activity survey we ran in 2018. Thanks to the incredible generosity of the on-line canine community, we received over 3000 responses to our canine activity survey where we asked you to tell us about your dog, about their activity routines and how the weather impacted their exercise. You can read the full results here:

Exploring Owner Perceptions of the Impacts of Seasonal
Weather Variations on Canine Activity and Potential
Consequences for Human–Canine Relationships

In this post we’re going to focus on the winter weather results from our survey

  • 64% of dog owners surveyed said ICE reduced their dog’s activity
  • 48.2% said COLD reduced their dog’s activity
  • 25.3% said RAIN reduced their dog’s activity

We also explored which dogs’ activity levels were most impacted by cold, wet, icy winter weather:

  • Small dogs (under 10kg) were most impacted by winter weather.
  • Both brachycephalic (flat-faced) and dolichocephalic (long-nosed) dogs were more impacted by winter than dogs with a mesocephalic (medium – like Labradors and spaniels) shaped skull.
  • Older dogs (8 years and older) were more impacted than young dogs.

And which dogs were less impacted by winter weather:

  • Dogs that competed in canine sports were less impacted by winter weather.
  • Dogs that were routinely active for 2 hours or more per day were less impacted by winter weather.

When individual breeds were compared, the results were frankly unsurprising; Yorkshire Terriers, Whippets, Chihuahuas, Greyhounds and Pugs were the breeds most likely to miss out on exercise in winter weather.

Smaller dogs, and breeds such as Chihuahuas were most likely to miss out on exercise in winter. Pepe here would rather stay in bed.

At the other end of the spectrum, Huskies, working Cocker Spaniels and Springer Spaniels were less impacted by winter weather (and all these breeds were compared to the Labrador Retriever).

Overall, 50% of respondents agreed that they use dog-jackets and coats to keep their pet warm during exercise in the winter. We also asked which dogs were most likely to wear a coat in the winter:

  • Dogs weighing under 10kg
  • Brachycephalic and brachycephalic cross breed (e.g. Jugs, Pugaliers and Lhasaliers) were more likely to wear coats compared to mesocephalic dogs.
  • The dolichocephalic breeds Whippets and Greyhounds were the breeds most likely to wear a coat.

So why does this matter?

As you will by now be aware, this is a blog all about hot dogs, so why are we harping on about cold dogs all of a sudden? One of the ways of keeping your dog safe in the hot weather, is to prepare them for the heat. We know that overweight dogs are more likely to develop heat-related illness because the extra fat they carry makes it harder for them to cool down (we explain this in more detail in a previous post). We also know that unfit dogs will get hotter faster during exercise, so keeping your dog fit during the winter means they will be better prepared to cope with sudden hot spells in spring and early summer. So if your dog does less exercise in the winter, they will be less fit in the summer and they could put on some excess weight, both of which will make it much harder for them to stay cool.

Even in sub-zero temperatures Hendricks still needs to stop to cool down in a nice muddy puddle.

We should also pause here, to remember that dogs can still develop heat-related illness in the winter! In one of our previous studies we reported that dogs were presented for veterinary treatment of exercise-induced heat-related illness all year round, and one of those dogs died as a result of their exertional heat-related illness in January. Just because its cold, there is still a risk of overheating, especially for dogs with underlying diseases that affect their breathing, so make sure you can spot the early signs of heat-related illness so that you can take immediate action.

We do however recognise that there are times when it isn’t safe to exercise a dog in winter weather. If your dog is older, has mobility issues, or underlying heart or lung disease then you may need to speak to your veterinary professional about ways to help them stay safe during wintery walks. We’re also not suggesting putting yourself or your dog at risk heading out into a blizzard, or onto icy roads and pavements. We also recognise that exercising your dog in the dark can be a serious personal safety issue, particularly for women, so you need to put your own wellbeing first when deciding when and where your dog can be active.

Dogs can also develop hypothermia (the opposite problem to heat-related illness – becoming too cold) especially smaller dogs, older dogs and those with underlying health issues. There are additional winter hazards related to ice and snow that can result in injuries, and even toxins such as antifreeze that pets may encounter in winter which can be extremely dangerous if ingested.

So how can you help your dog to remain active through the cold, dark, wet winter months?

  • Consider if a coat or fleece will help them stay active.
  • Wipe your dog’s paws and belly after walking to remove any traces of grit, salt and ice.
  • Find ways to stay active at home or in the garden.
  • Consider an alternative winter activity like hydrotherapy to help maintain fitness if you can’t get outside as often (ensure you have checked with your vet that this is safe first).
  • Join a canine sports club to keep you motivated!

We found dogs that took part in canine sports (like canicross, agility and field sports) were less likely to be impacted by winter weather, so if you need some added motivation to keep moving with your canine companion consider joining a local club?

These two are raring to go, even on cold, frosty, misty mornings.

We also investigated the impact of summer weather on canine activity, so we’ll share another post in spring to explore those findings ready for the hot weather. In the meantime, if you can’t wait for more Hot Dogs research findings you can read our recent papers open-access here:

Full results from the survey discussed in this post:

Exploring Owner Perceptions of the Impacts of Seasonal
Weather Variations on Canine Activity and Potential
Consequences for Human–Canine Relationships

Our latest research exploring heat-related illness in UK pets. This paper uses the SAVSNET database of primary-care veterinary practice patient records to explore heat-related illness in all pets, including cats, rabbits, guinea-pigs and ferrets:

Surveillance of heat-related illness in small animals presenting to veterinary practices in the UK between 2013 and 2018

Anne has also been busy researching working trial dogs:

Kinetics and Kinematics of Working Trials Dogs: The Impact of Long Jump Length on Peak Vertical Landing Force and Joint Angulation

Spotting Hot Dogs – the early signs.

One of the questions we are frequently asked is:

What does excessive panting actually look like?”

Thanks to Lily’s owner we can now show you!

Lily is a Lurcher, and so gets a little over excited when off lead and in sight of something she can chase… Thanks to her owner’s quick work, Lily cooled and made a full recovery.

If your dog is breathing like this, they are too hot! Time to take action:

  • Move them out of the sun, into the shade and away from heat if possible.
  • Make them rest – continued exercise (even walking) will limit their cooling.
  • If they don’t stop panting, it’s time to start active cooling! Use water (whatever you have available), get them into a breeze/next to a fan/into air conditioning and contact your vet!

Recognising heat-related illness during the mild stages saves lives.

Hot cats?

Yes you read that right, Emily’s inner crazy cat lady has been unleashed for today so we’re talking about frazzled felines for a change!

Can cats get heatstroke?

In a word, YES! Any animal can develop heatstroke, we just tend to think about dogs and horses because they are the animals most frequently featured in the news, and we exercise and travel with these species meaning they are more commonly put in a situation that can result in over-heating. Whilst cats tend to be heat-seekers – lying on radiators, in patches of sunlight and in front of fires – they too can find themselves in trouble in hot weather.

Which cats are at risk?

One of the most serious risks to cats in hot weather is becoming trapped somewhere hot. The majority of UK cats enjoy a free roaming indoor-outdoor lifestyle, meaning they can seek out warm areas to sleep such as greenhouses, sheds and conservatories. If they fall asleep and find themselves trapped, just like dogs in hot cars they will struggle to control their body temperature and develop heatstroke if they cannot escape.

Older cats, just like dogs and humans, are likely to be at greater risk of heatstroke. Any underlying health conditions like obesity, heart disease, thyroid disease, kidney disease or breathing disorders will make it harder for them to cool down. Dehydration is particularly dangerous in hot weather, and older cats may be less inclined to drink so encouraging fluid intake is really important (see below) in hot weather.

There are rare reports of cats developing heat-related illness from hunting behaviour, chasing birds that have entered a hot house or apartment for example, but unlike dogs exercise is far less likely to cause a problem to cats, as they’re (mostly) not stupid enough to run around in the heat.

Cats will develop heatstroke if trapped, or travelling in a hot car. So if you do need to travel with your cat for any reason ensure you are prepared to keep them cool during the journey:

  • Consider packing ice packs/frozen water bottles that can be wrapped in a towel to provide a cooling mechanism
  • Make sure you can create shade from the sun
  • Have access to water and a water bowl if there is a chance the journey could be long or delayed due to traffic
  • Ideally travel in the cooler parts of the day
  • If you don’t have air conditioning, ensure your cat is restrained in an appropriate carrier so the windows can be opened

Keeping hot cats cool

Keeping your cat hydrated is one key thing you can do to help them in hot weather. Cats are very particular about what they drink, so it’s worth being aware of your cat’s preference for water type, bowl type and location, and considering how they access their water.

Simply adding a few extra water bowls to different locations around the house and garden can help to improve your cat’s water intake, especially if you have an older cat or a cat with mobility problems. If you have multiple cats in your household then ensuring they have water bowls to spare is essential. Consider where you position the water bowls, easy access is important if your cat struggles to jump, and distance from food bowls and litter trays is important.

You can add ice cubes to your cat’s water bowl, but consider adding them to an additional bowl just in case your cat decides they don’t like them. If your cat has dental disease ice water may actually stop them from drinking (Emily knew Leo needed a dental when he stopped wanting to eat his ice cream). Some cats may enjoy using an ice cube as a toy.

Water fountains can be great for encouraging fussy cats to drink, Leo the cat definitely prefers running water so this was about 30 seconds after Emily first set up his water fountain:

Cat drinking from a water fountain
Leo drinking from his brand new water fountain

Prior to the water fountain Leo would ask to have the tap put on so he could drink straight from the spout:

Cat drinking from a tap
Leo prefers running water, such as straight from the tap.

There are some liquid diets for cats that may help to increase fluid intake, Leo received this one as a free sample in the post and he was VERY impressed. You can also consider freezing liquid foods and treats like this to provide a cooling snack to keep your cat entertained.

Cat drinking a liquid food from a bowl
Leo enjoying some HydraCare (liquid feed for cats)

Shaded areas in gardens are ideal places for cats to keep cool, if your cat is indoor only then stone floors or cooling mats can provide ideal cool locations for them to chill if it gets too hot. Some cats will seek out cooler places to nap, and may even tolerate ice packs/frozen water bottles wrapped in a towel to cool their toes.

Cat lying in the shade of plants
Leo keeping cool in the shade

Cats are particularly prone to sunburn and can develop skin cancer as a result, so if you have a cat with pink ears like Leo, consider using feline sunscreen to keep them safe when sunbathing.

How to spot signs of heatstroke in cats

The signs of heatstroke in cats are very similar to those in dogs as the underlying disease process is the same. If you are at all concerned about your cat you should contact your vet immediately, just like dogs the sooner your cat is treated the more likely it is they will survive.

Early signs may include:

  • Panting – open mouth breathing in cats is NOT NORMAL and should alert you that something is not right
  • Excessive sleepiness and confusion – we all know cats like to sleep but if you are struggling to wake them, or they are not responding normally to things like treats or fuss this can be a sign of over heating

More serious signs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Passing vomit or diarrhoea with blood
  • Becoming wobbly and uncoordinated
  • Fitting (seizuring)
  • Losing consciousness

A cat’s normal body temperature is 36.7–38.9°C, so if your cat has collapsed and you can check their temperature, anything over 40-41°C warrants active cooling. Move them away from the heat into the shade, use water to wet their coat and feet and use air movement (fans or air conditioning) and get them to your vet as soon as possible.

Leo and most of the cats at the animal unit at Brackenhurst have temperature sensing microchips so that Emily can monitor their temperature and these can be handy for detecting early problems, but a rectal temperature should be checked if your cat is unwell.

Microchip temperature readings from kittens
Microchip temperature checks on the kittens

Finally, heatstroke is far less common in cats than it is in dogs. Cats are smaller, which helps with heat loss, and cats are rarely dragged out on walks during the hottest part of the day! In particularly hot weather you may want to consider keeping your cat indoors to reduce the chances of them becoming trapped somewhere hot, but most cats are probably enjoying the current hot weather, and looking blissfully relaxed whilst doing so.

Cat sitting in daisies
Leo sunbathing in the daisies

Hot Dogs at bsava congress 2021!

Once again the Hot Dogs research team presented two clinical abstracts at this year’s British Small Animal Veterinary Association’s annual Congress, and we are pleased to be able to share them here.

As the UK temperatures continue to climb, it is essential every dog owner knows how to recognise the signs of heat-related illness, and how to effectively cool their dog in an emergency. Whilst these presentations are aimed at veterinary professionals, we’re making them available here too for anyone who is interested in our work.

ALWAYS seek veterinary advice if you are concerned your dog has developed heat-related illness. Less than half of the dogs that progressed to the severe form survived, so getting effective, early treatment is crucial.

Lots of myths get shared about cooling hot dogs, and sadly there isn’t much published evidence on which cooling methods work best! Our current understanding is that if your dog has overheated, but is still conscious, the most effective methods of cooling are to either immerse them in water (cold tap water is perfect), or wet them (with whatever water you have available) and fan them – air conditioning is perfect if you’re transporting them to the vet. If your dog has overheated and has lost consciousness, it is ESSENTIAL that you protect their airway, and don’t let them inhale any water. Dogs that have lost consciousness will cool far more slowly, so it is even more important to use effective cooling methods, such as spraying with water plus air movement.

Cooling methods used in dogs with heat-related illness under UK primary veterinary care during 2016-2018.

In this presentation, Emily shares the provisional results of our study exploring the cooling methods reported to have been used in the veterinary records of UK dogs presenting to their vet with heat-related illness. We also present the current evidence-base for cooling methods that are available for hot dogs, and discuss the importance of effective cooling.

You can download the abstract text here:

VetCompass Clinical Grading Tool for Heat-related Illness in Dogs – a novel tool to support clinical decision-making in primary-care practice.

In this abstract, Emily introduces our VetCompass Clinical Grading tool, which we hope will allow dog owners and veterinary professionals to recognise heat-related illness earlier, and hopefully support more effective management of this life-threatening condition.

You can download the abstract text here:

The full clinical grading tool is available in our paper, or in infographic form below:

New thinking on heat-related illness (heatstroke) in dogs

We’ve condensed our research so far into an article for the Kennel Club, sharing updates on the recognition of heat-related illness in dogs, the breeds at risk, and the most common triggers of this life-threatening condition.

You can read the full article here:

First published in the May 2021 edition of the Kennel Gazette. Copyright The Kennel Club Limited. Reproduced with their permission.

As summer finally arrives, we’re asking all dog owners to remember that

Dogs die in hot cars and on hot walks!

If your dog’s exercise has been limited by the UK’s lockdowns, or they have perhaps developed a little “lockdown bulge” they will be at greater risk of developing heat-related illness as the weather starts to warm. So make sure you can recognise the early signs, and always have a plan to cool your dog in an emergency.

Could you spot the signs of heat-related illness (heatstroke) in your dog?

We tend to go a little quiet over the winter, but we’re back with our latest research sharing the signs of heat-related illness in dogs presenting to UK vets. This is our third project working with the VetCompass team, and follows on from our research showing which UK dog breeds are at greatest risk of heatstroke and that exercise is the leading trigger of heatstroke in UK dogs.

Read the full study here (open access).

Our latest paper reports the most common signs of heat-related illness in dogs, abnormal breathing (excessive panting, and/or difficulty breathing) and lethargy (unwillingness to exercise, play or interact, changes in behaviour and tiredness). Crucially, dogs that are presented to vets showing just these early signs, were far more likely to survive.

When dogs presented to their vet with signs of severe heatstroke (neurological changes including multiple seizures, loss of consciousness or being comatose, bleeding disorders including passing vomit or diarrhea with blood, and organ damage), less than half survived (just 43.2%).

We are urging ALL dog owners to familiarise themselves with the EARLY signs of heat-related illness, as spotting these and taking appropriate action – cool your dog and seek veterinary advice – could save your dog’s life!

The AMAZING Camilla from the VetCompass team has turned our findings into this brilliant info-graphic, which we encourage you to download in full and share with as many dog owners as possible, as the UK weather starts to turn warmer!

Proposing the VC Clinical Grading Tool for Heat-Related Illness in Dogs

We will be presenting this tool in the BSAVA 2021 Clinical Abstracts in May, and will be sharing our findings on cooling methods used by UK vets, so watch this space for more updates over the coming months!

Dogs don’t die just in hot cars – the risk of exertional heat stroke in UK dogs.

Almost exactly two years ago we published our post – Dogs don’t just die in hot cars (to date our most widely read blog post!). Amidst the usual summer “Dogs die in hot cars” campaigns we warned owners about the risk of heat stroke triggered by exercise, and shared a particularly heart breaking story from a trainer who lost his dog after a seemingly routine training session in mild heat. We can now share an update on this important message, including the dogs most likely to be affected by exertional heat-related illness – aka heat stroke following exercise.

In the second publication from our Dogs Trust funded Hot Dogs canine heatstroke research project we share more findings from the VetCompass Programme, identifying the key triggers of heat related illness in UK dogs. This study uses the same dataset reported in our previous paper, reviewing the veterinary records of over 900,000 UK dogs. We identified 1222 dogs that had received care for heat-related illness (including heat stroke, but also the milder conditions heat exhaustion and heat stress) and reviewed the clinical notes to identify the trigger of the event and the outcome for the dog.

Of the events where a trigger was recorded in the history, 74.2% occurred after exercise.

Exposure to hot weather alone triggered 12.9% of events and travel or confinement in a hot car triggered 5.2% of heat-related illness events. Other triggers included confinement in a hot building (e.g. a conservatory), undergoing treatment at a veterinary clinic or professional grooming parlour, and sadly becoming entangled in blankets or bedding.

The risk of death following exercise induced heat stroke was similar to the risk of death following vehicular heat stroke, with around 10% of events resulting in fatality. The risk of death following heat stroke triggered by confinement in a hot building was significantly higher, with a third (33.3%) of events resulting in the dog’s death.

Exercise triggered over 10 times as many canine heat-related illness events as hot cars, and caused 8 times as many deaths.

To be clear, Hendricks is actually alive in this photo! He is demonstrating a “woogle” – rolling in wet grass to cool down after a run.

The risk is year-round!

A key result from this project was the year-round risk of exercise induced heat stroke. Exertional heat-related illness affected dogs during every month of the year, with fatalities in January and every month between March-October.

In contrast, vehicular heat-related illness and environmental heat-related illness occurred only between March and September (the UK’s spring to summer period). This mirrors the results we reported earlier this month, that internal car temperatures exceed 35°C  between April and September . Vehicular heat stroke deaths occurred between March and July, adding further evidence to support our recent call to launch the “Dogs die in hot cars” campaign earlier in the year. Environmental heat stroke deaths occurred from May to September, and building entrapment fatalities occurred between June and September.

Which dogs are most likely to develop exertional heat stroke?

We previously reported that Labrador Retrievers had no greater risk than crossbred dogs for developing heat-related illness in general. However, this is not true for purely exertional heat-related illness, Labradors were twice as likely to suffer from the condition. The Chow Chow, Bulldog, French Bulldog, Greyhound, Springer Spaniel, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Staffordshire Bull Terrier were all found to be at increased risk of exertional heat-related illness when compared to the Labrador, with these breeds plus the Pug, Boxer, Golden Retriever and Border Collie at increased risk when compared to crossbred dogs.

Image credit: Michelle Collard

Younger dogs (under 8 years old) were at increased risk of exertional heat-related illness, as were male dogs and neutered dogs. Overweight (both obese and large for their breed) dogs were also at increased risk, as were brachycephalic dogs in general.

This finding reflects the situation in humans, with young athletic men at greatest risk of exertional heat stroke, either following sport or after working in hot environments.

Which dogs are most affected by hot weather?

The breeds most at risk of environmental heat stroke – heat-related illness occurring after being exposed to hot weather alone without exercise – were the Chow Chow, Bulldog, Pug and French Bulldog. Again, dogs were found to have similar risk factors to humans for environmental heat stroke, with older dogs (aged 12 years or over) 3 times as likely to develop the condition.

The risk to flat-faced dogs

Brachycephalic, or flat-faced dogs, had two times the risk of environmental heat stroke and three times the risk of vehicular heat stroke when compared to mesocephalic dogs (e.g. those with a medium skull shape, like the Labrador or Springer Spaniels).

Flat-faced dogs are known to overheat at relatively low ambient temperatures (e.g. 21-22°C ), due to their limited capacity to cool via panting. Our findings suggest they are at increased risk of all types of heat-related illness, so efforts to change current breed standards and “breed to breathe” should be prioritised in the face of rising global temperatures.

How do you keep your dog safe?

The crucial thing is to know your dog.

Be able to recognise when your dog is getting hot – are they starting to pant, lying down more, seeking shade and cool surfaces to lie on. Know if your dog will run until they collapse, as these “eager to please” dogs like the Golden Retriever, Springer Spaniel and Staffordshire Bull Terrier are particularly at risk when out walking, running or even playing in warm weather.

If you own a flat-faced dog you need to be extra cautious in any situation where they could be exercising or exposed to a hot environment. Consider carrying water with you so you have a means of cooling them if you need to.

Image credit: Michelle Collard

If your dog is older, you need to be particularly cautious in hot weather. Just like humans, older dogs struggle to control their body temperature in hot weather, so you need to check that your dog is actually drinking enough, keep an eye on them sunbathing in hot weather, and consider using paddling pools and frozen treats to help them stay cool.

Dogs die in hot cars, but in the UK more dogs die after exercise, even during cooler months. Think carefully before taking your dog on a long walk in hot weather, and if you’re heading to the beach, make sure you can keep them cool and out of the sun.

To access the full paper click below:

Dogs Don’t Die Just in Hot Cars—Exertional Heat-Related Illness (Heatstroke) Is a Greater Threat to UK Dogs

Image credit: Michelle Collard

Dogs in hot cars: is the risk just a summer one?

Over 75% of dog owners use their car to transport or house their dog, but cars get hot. The ‘Dogs in Hot Cars’ campaign sends out a clear message every year that leaving a dog in a hot car is dangerous and potentially fatal for a dog. Despite this, over 8000 calls were made to the RSPCA in 2018 over concerns for dogs left in hot cars. The risk period tends to be associated with summer, and the campaign normally starts around May time. With an increasingly unpredictable climate and increase in intensity and frequency of heatwaves, the year round risk of car temperatures needs further investigation.

Our latest study looked at temperatures falling outside the range of 8-25°C . Broadly speaking, 25°C is the upper comfortable threshold for dogs to control their body temperature, slightly above the upper limit for some brachycephalic dogs to cool themselves unaided. This range is also the temperature threshold for the storage of many veterinary and human drugs, outside of which they can lose their efficacy with potentially dangerous consequences. An additional threshold over 35°C was included, at which point all dogs struggle to thermoregulate, particularly when enclosed in a car with no air movement.

The internal temperatures of four cars were monitored over a two-year period. This allowed us to monitor the temperatures 24 hours a day (no dogs were kept in the cars for the purposes of the study!). By the end of the study period, we had between 7300 and 17800 individual temperature readings for each month of the year. This allowed us to look at the impact of time of day and seasonality on internal car temperature.

UK car temperatures

Internal car temperature ranged from -7.4°C to 54.5°C with temperatures dropping below 8°C in every month except June and July. Temperatures exceeded 25°C in every month of the year and above 35°C from April to September. And whilst early mornings were generally cooler, temperatures over 35°C were recorded between 8am and 9pm.

The highest temperature recorded was 54.5°C

It is also worth bearing in mind that the risk may extend beyond stationary vehicles. Sitting in traffic on a hot day, or an air conditioning system failure could also be lethal for dogs trapped in the car.

This study highlights the year round risk to dogs in cars and the need for constant vigilance. This is particularly the case for those breeds and types of dogs considered more at risk of heatstroke, such as brachycephalic, overweight and older dogs.

The study highlights that the risk to dogs in cars is year round, not just restricted to the traditionally warmer summer months. Heat-related illness can be fatal so whenever dogs are in cars, owners should be cautious. Whilst traditionally the advice is to avoid exercise during the midday heat, peak car temperatures occurred between 14:00 and 17:00 hours from March to October. So late afternoon, from spring to autumn is the most at dangerous time for dogs in cars.

To read the full article click here.

Hot dogs – the UK dogs most likely to experience heat-related illness

After what feels like an eternity (and is in fact just under 2 years!) we can FINALLY share the first set of results from our Hot Dogs VetCompass project – exploring the risk factors, incidence and fatality of heat-related illness in UK dogs.

The paper is fully open access, so you can either view it on-line here:

Or download the PDF here:

We have a conversation article that summarises the key findings available here:

Or, for the super short version, check out our infographic, designed by Becky –