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‘Silent killer’: Walking dogs in hot weather could be ‘as deadly leaving them in a hot car’

19 May 2023


Alongside their annual Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign asks, vets have teamed up with other organisations to warn owners about the dangers of exercising dogs in hot weather.

‘Silent killer’: Walking dogs in hot weather could be ‘as deadly leaving them in a hot car’ Image

The animal welfare coalition that coined the iconic ‘dogs die in hot cars’ welfare warning says that exercising dogs on hot days could be equally fatal for the nation's pets.

The warning comes as the UK heads towards summer season and temperatures begin to rise. The coalition group, which includes animal welfare and veterinary organisations, is extending its campaign to warn pet owners about the dangers that hot walks pose to dogs.

A survey by the British Veterinary Association after 2022’s record-breaking summer found that while around 1 in 10 (9%) vets in small animal practice had seen at least one dog affected by the heat after being left in a hot car, almost four times as many vets (38%) had seen at least one dog affected by the heat after being walked or exercised in hot weather.

In addition, the RSPCA reports the number of visits to its hot weather advice pages saw a 650% increase compared with the previous year.*

The group warns that taking pets outdoors in hot spells could be a “silent killer”- highlighting that whilst the majority of dog owners would no longer never dream of leaving their beloved pet in a car on a hot day, many people still inadvertently put their dogs at serious risk by taking them out for a walk, or for a day out to the beach or park, during hot spells.

Esme Wheeler, dog welfare specialist at the RSPCA said:

“For so many of us, the start of warmer weather means we can spend more time outdoors in the sunshine. However, warm weather also comes with the increased risk to our dogs.

“Thanks to years of campaigning, public awareness of the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars is well understood. However, exercising dogs in hot weather can also present a huge risk to our beloved animals and can be just as deadly. This is why every single dog owner needs to be savvy as we enter summer, and be mindful of potential harm caused to dogs by more strenuous or sustained exercise on warmer days. Too many times we have seen people out running with their dogs, cycling with their dogs running alongside, or throwing balls for their dogs during hot weather, with beloved pets often left panting heavily and at serious risk of overheating.

“All breeds and types of dog are at risk but those with underlying health conditions, especially ones affecting their breathing, and older or elderly dogs can overheat more easily, as well as overweight dogs, dogs with thick or double coats, and some large and flat-faced breeds.”

The coalition group has for many years highlighted how dogs die in hot cars - with the message ‘not long is too long’, warning owners to never leave their pets inside a car on a warm day, and highlighting to the wider public the necessity to call the police if they see a dog in distress inside a hot car.

The extension of the campaign to warn that dogs die on hot walks now aims to empower pet owners to learn the signs of heatstroke in dogs so they can seek veterinary help as soon as possible, and the group has already begun to spread its additional key message: ‘If in doubt, don’t go out.’

British Veterinary Association Junior Vice President, Anna Judson, said:

“Every year, vets see a large number of cases of dogs requiring treatment for heat-related conditions, many of which are a result of being walked or exercised during the hottest parts of the day. It’s important that owners don’t let their guard down even when official warnings aren’t in place.

“We would like to see it become the norm that dog owners always err on the side of caution when it comes to hot weather, and instead, walk their pets in the early morning or late dusk when temperatures are cooler.

“If every pet owner can arm themselves with the knowledge to detect the early signs of heatstroke, as well as get into the habit of appropriately leaving their dogs at home in a cool, well-ventilated space at the first sign of hot weather, we really believe many animals’ lives will be saved. Our message is simple - if in doubt, don’t go out.”

What are the signs of heat-related illness in dogs? 

  • Excessive panting that doesn’t stop when the dog rests.
  • Difficulty breathing, especially if there is unusual noise or any blue/grey tinge to gums or tongue.
  • Unusual tiredness - becoming tired sooner than normal.
  • Changes in behaviour - lying down more frequently and stumbling.
  • Less keen to play.

What should I do if I spot these signs?

  • Stop the dog from running or playing around
  • Move them into the shade
  • Give them small amounts of cool (not ice
  • cold) water
  • Lay them in room-temperature (not ice cold) water and/or pour it over them
  • Call your vet for advice immediately


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