Exercise most common cause of heatstroke in dogs, charity warns

Dogs Trust says owners should avoid taking their pets out during the hottest times of the day

The most common cause of potentially fatal heatstroke in dogs during summer months is caused by being exercised, according to Dogs Trust.

A veterinary study commissioned by Dogs Trust in 2020 found that dogs being exercised by walking, playing or running with their owners was responsible for 74 per cent of heatstroke cases.

More than two-thirds, or 68 per cent, of these cases occurred after simply walking in the heat.

Niamh Curran-Kelly, veterinary and welfare manager at Dogs Trust Ireland, said that dogs are not able to cool themselves down as effectively as people.


“They have to rely on panting or releasing small amounts of heat through their paw pads. When the air and ground temperature[s] rise, it becomes much more difficult for them to do this, so they can overheat very easily,” she said.

“If you think your dog might be suffering from heatstroke, it’s vital that you quickly move them to a cooler location and contact your vet immediately for advice.

“Offer them cool but not cold water to drink and pour small amounts of room temperature water on their body. The main goal is to return their body temperature to normal as quickly as possible, but not so quickly as to cause shock,” Ms Curran-Kelly said.

Dogs Trust is urging owners not to take any risks when it comes to their dog’s safety in hot weather as temperatures are predicted to soar over the coming week.

The charity has said that owners should avoid taking their dogs out during the hottest times of the day and recommends walking dogs early in the morning or late in the evening instead. They added that it is safer to leave dogs at home in the shade if heading out for a day in the sun.

“It’s especially important not to walk older, overweight or dogs with squishy faces in hot weather as it’s more exerting and therefore more dangerous for them,” Corina Fitzsimons, PR and communications manager at Dogs Trust Ireland, said.

“For these dogs, even sitting outside in hot weather can lead to heatstroke,” she added.

Common signs of heatstroke in dogs include panting heavily, drooling excessively, appearing lethargic, drowsy or uncoordinated, vomiting, collapsing or diarrhoea.

If heatstroke is suspected, owners are advised to seek veterinary attention immediately as the sooner they do, the better chance the dog has of making a full recovery.

Dogs Trust Ireland also said that owners should never leave dogs alone in cars on warm days, as just a few minutes in a hot car can be fatal for the animals.

Temperatures can rise inside a car from 22 to 33 degrees in just 10 minutes, and parking in the shade and leaving windows down does very little to keep temperatures low, they said.

Ellen O’Donoghue

Ellen O’Donoghue

Ellen O'Donoghue is an Irish Times journalist