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How to Keep Your Dog Cool On a Staycation Cottage Holiday

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dog in sunglasses with suitcase

It’s that time of year again! Schools out for summer and the heat is rising in the UK.

With temperatures soaring and breaking new records, and the last remaining pandemic restrictions lifted by the Government, it’s the perfect time to take that long-awaited staycation holiday cottage break away from it all. A third of owners will take their four-legged friend away with them on holiday too.

We all know that it’s important for us humans to stay hydrated and sun-protected in this weather; especially when we’re outside. But for those of us planning to take a trip away with our dogs to unfamiliar surroundings, we need to remember to take additional care of them to ensure they’re safe in the sunshine.

Here we bring you our tips to help you keep your precious pooches cool in hot weather whilst on holiday.

Before you set off 

  • Make sure you’ve done your homework about where you’ll be staying.

Check your chosen dog-friendly accommodation’s pet policy so that you know what to expect. Most holiday cottage rules state that dogs aren’t allowed to be left alone in the accommodation, so you’ll have to take your pet out with you during hot temperatures or stay in the property.

You should also double-check that the attractions and restaurants you’re planning to visit during your break will welcome four-legged friends. This avoids wasting any of your holiday time travelling with pets in a hot car and causing disappointment for your holiday party.

  • It’s a good idea to make a list of items your dog might need for both travelling and during your holiday away.

Think about items that will help provide them with a comfortable sleep whilst travelling. Items like their water bowl and plenty of water will be essential – especially during hot temperatures.

You should also make sure that you’ve packed plenty of dog treats or meals that can be easily fed to your dog whilst you’re on the move. This can also keep things calmer should there be any unexpected delays during travelling.

Taking some home comforts and toys will be important for your pet; particularly if you’re taking a dog or puppy you may have bought during lockdown, where this will be their first time away from home.

  • If your dog has not had a general check-up with a vet for a year or more, get them booked in for a quick once-over. This not only provides you with peace of mind but also allows you to double-check if they are up to date with things like worming treatment, flea and tick treatment, and vaccinations (or other standard injections). It’s also a great opportunity for you to raise any concerns or reservations you may already have, so that your dog can get the professional advice and care it needs to ensure they have a hassle-free holiday with you.
  • It’s a good idea to ensure that you’ve packed plenty of dog poop bags so that you’re not caught short whilst you’re out with your pet at any point during your break.
  • Try to take your dog for a long walk before you leave, it will mean they’re less likely to be restless whilst you’re travelling.
  • Lastly, but just as importantly, don’t forget to note down the contact details for some veterinary practices based at the location/s you’re visiting.

You don’t expect your dog to get ill or become injured, but it pays to have these details to hand in case something happens.

It also means that you’ve got that extra peace of mind that you can get help for your furry friend as quickly as possible – should they really need it.

Whilst you’re travelling

Safety is obviously important when you’re travelling anywhere away from home, especially if you’ve got a car packed with family and pets.

Road trips can be fun and exciting, but there are of course a number of things to watch out for whilst you’re on the move.

Here are some quick tips to help you keep your dog safe, healthy and comfortable during your journey:

  • Before setting off on your trip, try to keep your car in a shaded spot so that the temperature inside the car is as cool as possible. Also, run the air conditioning to get the car cool.
  • Consider fitting some simple sunshades to the windows so your dog is protected, especially in the boot. These days you can buy sunshades that attach with suction points or ones that roll down, and different sizes and shapes mean that these can be set up on any of the windows in your car.
  • Whilst you’re on the road, try your best to prevent your dog from hanging its head out of the car window, incoming foreign objects on country roads like stones, branches and insects could potentially cause damage and inflammation to your pet’s ears, eyes and nose.
  • Ensure you’ve offered your dog some cold drinking water before you start your trip and take some cold water with you so you can keep your dog hydrated whilst you’re travelling.
  • No matter how long the car journey is from home to your holiday destination, stop regularly for a breather, a bit of exercise and a toilet break.
  • Try not to feed your dog for an hour or two before you travel, as this can help prevent them from developing motion sickness.
  • Never leave your dog/s alone in a hot car (this goes for any other enclosed space in the hot weather too). These conditions can prove fatal for them, even if you think you’ve been sensible and left your vehicle parked up in a shady spot with some windows down.

In fact, according to PETA, on a 78F (25C) day, temperatures inside a parked car can rise to between 100F (38C) and 120F (49C) in a matter of minutes. On a 90F (32C) day, the temperature can reach as high as 160F (71C) in less than 10 minutes.

It’s also worth remembering that organisations like Battersea and the RSPCA actively encourage the public to call 999 if they spot a dog left alone in a hot car.

It could be deemed as an offence of animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 if you’re charged, which in turn could lead to a fine or even a prison sentence.

  • What can prove fatal for dogs is heatstroke, which means that they have become too hot and are unable to suitably reduce their body temperature by panting.

Dogs diagnosed with certain conditions and/or on certain kinds of medication, as well as those that are very young or very old, can be more prone to developing heatstroke.

It’s also true to say that some breeds of dogs are more susceptible to heatstroke, such as dogs who naturally have very dense and heavy coats (e.g. Saint Bernard, Labrador Retriever, Newfoundland) and those with short flat faces (e.g. pug, bulldog).

So, make sure your travel plans always allow for keeping your dog cool when taking them with you, wherever you’re going to that day.

  • Cooling collars and coats are very useful to help keep your dog cool during high temperatures.

Whilst you’re enjoying your holiday

Here are some additional ways to keep your dog as cool as possible in the summer heat:

  • Put down a large damp towel or cooling mat for your dog to rest on.
  • Use a desktop fan (e.g. Dyson cool fan) to circulate the air.
  • Try filling a hot water bottle and put it in the freezer for half an hour. Place it next to your dog to cool them down on (wrap a tea towel around if needed).
  • Use their favourite treat to help encourage them into a shaded area.
  • Be generally mindful throughout the day of how much physical activity your dog has done. Play games that don’t involve the need for them to move or run around so much. This will help you to keep your dog safe and happy in the hotter weather.
  • Actively encourage your dog to stay in shaded areas and away from direct sunlight.
  • Use a parasol/portable sunshade screen, if you can, to shield them from the sun’s harsh rays.
  • Close curtains to keep the blazing sun out.
  • Avoid walking your dog during very hot days. Walk them during the cooler, early mornings, or late evenings instead. If in doubt don’t walk  – no dog has ever died from not being walked.

 Visiting the seaside or a lake

Trips to the British seaside or a lake in summer is very popular, especially for people who love the great outdoors and those who want to take their dogs somewhere for some fun or to cool down.

  • Remember that sand can be accidentally eaten by dogs through their digging and playing in the sand. If too much sand is ingested, it can cause sand impaction – a dangerous blockage in their intestines.

This is a serious condition that can cause symptoms such as vomiting and abdominal pain, requiring urgent medical attention.

Too much salt water can also be fatal to dogs.

  • Hot surfaces like sand or tarmac can really scorch your dog’s footpads on their feet. Do these surfaces feel too hot for you? If so, then it will be the same story for your dog, so take care of their paws and keep them off surfaces like these when they’re red hot.
  • Blue-green algae toxins in lakes are very harmful to dogs. Know how to spot the signs and don’t let your dog come into contact with it. Cooling your dogs’ paws in a freshwater stream is safer.

The warning signs of heatstroke

Dogs can develop heatstroke in other situations that don’t involve your car. Here’s a quick guide to recognising the signs of heatstroke, and what actions to take immediately.

  • Excessive drooling
  • Heavy panting
  • Lethargy
  • Glazed eyes
  • A rapid pulse/heartbeat
  • Loss of coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness

What to do if your dog develops heatstroke

To ensure your pet has the best chance of survival, experts recommend that their body temperature is lowered gradually. This process must be started as soon as possible.

  • Move your dog to a fully shaded, cool area
  • Immediately pour cool (but not cold, as very cold water can cause your dog shock) water over the dog
  • Use wet towels or, if you can, place them in the breeze of a fan
  • Allow and encourage them to drink small amounts of cool water
  • Continue to pour cool water over the dog until their breathing starts to settle. Don’t pour too much over them in one go as they may start shivering

Once you can see your dog is cool and more stable, take them to the nearest vet for an urgent check-up. 

Sunburn warning

It’s perhaps one of the most important precautions you can take for your dog in the sun – keeping them as protected as possible from direct sun. 

  • Don’t allow your dog to be in the sun for long periods of time, as this can cause issues such as heat stroke, dehydration and in some cases, pets can get sunburn just like humans, especially if they have light-coloured skin or have a thin or patchy coat. As well as being generally painful and uncomfortable, sunburn in animals can lead to certain types of skin cancer.

Signs of sunburn to watch out for in dogs are the same that can be found for humans, and include:

  • Skin redness
  • Crustiness of a skin area
  • Skin flaking
  • Itching
  • Blisters
  • Pain (especially when the area is touched)

What to do if you think your dog has sunburn

Mild sunburn will often heal in a few days if you take the following steps with your dog as soon as you notice the sun damage but remember to check with a vet if you’re worried about how serious the damage is.

  • Apply cold compresses to your dog’s skin to cool it, being careful to always treat their wounds gently.
  • Keep your dog out of the sun until you can see the healing process is well underway.
  • Consider using sun protective clothing for your pooch, like a highly rated SPF t-shirt or fabric covering of some kind. This will also help to protect existing areas of sunburn.
  • Use sunblock or sun cream for future outings to protect their skin (particularly the newly damaged areas)

Severe sunburn should always be checked by a vet as soon as possible. This is because they may need treatments such as painkillers, antibiotics to prevent infections, or dressings to cover the wounds.

Preventing sunburn

It’s relatively simple to prevent your dog from getting sunburned in the first place – just by taking a few sensible steps like these:

  • Use sunblock or sun cream suitable for canines, as directed by the label. Look for products that are waterproof and have a minimum SPF of 30. You can purchase these items from most reputable pet shops.

Apply two layers at least 15 minutes before your pet goes outside, and keep reapplying every so often throughout the day. Dogs often need it on the end of their nose and on their stomach, and if possible, try to discourage them from licking their lotion off.

If you’ve taken all the right precautions, but things still go wrong…

Sometimes you will have taken every sensible measure and step that you can take, but something still goes wrong on the day.

In those situations, it’s time to contact the local vet. Don’t put it off until your holiday ends and you’re back at home, as this might worsen your dog’s condition but also cause an unnecessarily prolonged period of pain and discomfort for your treasured friend.

All in all, the likelihood is that you will have a fun and happy time on holiday with your dog but keeping the above advice in mind will only increase the chances of you and your pet enjoying time away safely and without incident.

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