Dog welfare researchers from Nottingham Trent University and the Royal Veterinary College discovered that dogs in the capital had up to double the risk of heat-related disease as dogs in other areas.
Heatstroke, also known as a heat-related disease in dogs, is a potentially lethal ailment that is projected to grow more prevalent as global temperatures increase.
The researchers looked into risk factors for heatstroke by examining anonymized clinical veterinary records from over 900,000 canines from the Royal Veterinary College’s VetCompass program.
Dogs who were older and heavier were most at danger of suffering severe heatstroke in the United Kingdom, while older dogs and flat-faced breeds such as pugs and bulldogs were most at risk of dying.
The mean temperature at which dogs were ill from heatstroke was 16.9°C, according to the study. This is far lower than usual thought, according to the researchers, and dispels the idea that dogs are only in danger of heatstroke in extreme heat.
390 dogs, including 72 in London, required veterinary care for heatstroke during the study’s single year.
Heatstroke was twice as common in London as it was in Yorkshire, and nearly twice as common in the North West and East of England.
The researchers have found that effort, or activity, was responsible for 68 percent of heatstroke cases in London, while hot weather was responsible for 14 percent.
Dogs confined to a heated building accounted for 8% of instances in London, which is much more than the nearly twice the national rate of 3%. This might be attributable to a larger number of flats in cities than in rural areas, as well as the fact that the ambient temperature in places like London can be roughly 5°C higher than in the countryside.
In contrast, only 1% of heatstroke cases in London were linked to a dog being left in a hot car, compared to 6% nationally, which the researchers believe is due in part to a difference in transportation preferences in London, as well as the success of the long-running campaign “Dogs die in hot cars.”
The team is advising owners to remember that while dogs sometimes die in hot automobiles, many more dogs experience heatstroke on hot walks, and even mild heat may be fatal for elderly or flat-faced dogs.
Increasing age was linked to both severe and deadly heatstroke in dogs across the United Kingdom, with dogs aged 12 years or older having the highest risk of both.
Heavier dogs weighing 40–50kg were more likely to develop severe heatstroke, and flat-faced or brachycephalic, dogs suffering from heatstroke were three times more likely to die than other dogs.
As summer comes, the researchers advise dog owners to be on the lookout for early indicators of heatstroke in their pets, such as heavy panting, red or darker gums and tongue, disorientation, and unsteadiness leading to collapse, diarrhea, vomiting, and even seizures leading to coma. The situation might be lethal if the dog is not immediately cooled and medical care is not sought.
“As global temperatures continue to increase, a greater knowledge of the combined risk factors for heatstroke will assist more focused owner education to promote canine welfare,” said Emily Hall, a veterinary surgeon at the Royal Veterinary College and the paper’s lead author. While activity was the most prevalent cause of heatstroke in general, our findings indicate the increased risk of severe and fatal heatstroke in dogs that are unable to leave the heat source or have a reduced ability to thermoregulate, such as older dogs and brachycephalic breeds.
“Both flats and terraced houses are commonly found in the hottest regions of cities and are associated with an increased risk of overheating.” While this does not explain all of the increased heatstroke occurrences in London, it does explain a much higher percentage of cases in London when compared to the rest of the UK.”
“The relatively low temperatures at which heatstroke often occurs in U.K. dogs could result from a lack of acclimatization opportunities with the U.K.’s variable climate,” said Dr. Anne Carter, a canine scientist in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences and co-author of the paper.
“It emphasizes the necessity of teaching dog owners how to spot the early indicators and that it can happen even in relatively moderate weather.” When the temperature was just 3.3°C, one dog had heatstroke while exercising in the winter.”
“These results emphasize the double whammy risk of heatstroke that dogs face in built-up areas: rising global temperatures combined with concrete cooking effects from living in city environments,” said Dr. Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor of Companion Animal Epidemiology at the Royal Veterinary College and co-author of the paper. Owners who are aware of these additional hazards can take efforts to safeguard their pets, especially as the summer months approach.
“In response to this new VetCompass research on canine heatstroke, the United Kingdom has developed a new national campaign called ‘Dogs Die on Hot Walks,’ which warns owners about the dangers of exercising their dogs during the hotter periods of the day.” These dangers are heightened for dogs in urban regions of the United Kingdom.”
“Dogs Trust’s Canine Welfare Grants program offers money for critical research initiatives that positively benefit canine welfare, and we are happy to be supporting the VetCompass effort,” said Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director at Dogs Trust.
“For many years, Pets Trust has campaigned on the subject of “Hot Dogs,” offering advice to owners on how to care for their dogs in hot weather. Every new piece of evidence on the subject serves to raise owners’ knowledge and comprehension of the problem, which should lead to substantially fewer occurrences of dogs being seriously ill or dying from heatstroke.”