Dogs living in London are more likely to get heatstroke than anywhere else in the UK and owners are being warned to keep an eye out for the symptoms as summer approaches.
A new study found dogs in the capital were twice as likely to contract heat-related illnesses as some other regions.
Heat stroke, also known as heat-related illness, is potentially deadly and experts believe it could become more common as global temperatures rise.
As summer approaches, owners are warned to watch for early signs of heat stroke.
These include excessive panting, red or dark gums and tongue, confusion and insecurity leading to collapse, diarrhea, vomiting, and even seizures leading to coma.
If the dog is not chilled immediately, owners should contact a veterinarian.
The study suggests that flats and townhouses are associated with an increased risk of overheating and that a larger percentage of cases in London were triggered by being confined in a hot building.
Researchers found that across the UK, older and heavier dogs were most at risk of developing severe heat stroke.
When it came to mortality risk, older dogs and flat-faced breeds like pugs and bulldogs were most at risk.
Researchers from Nottingham Trent University and the Royal Veterinary College were surprised to find that the average temperature at which dogs developed heat stroke was 16.9°C.
This is much lower than previously thought and debunks the myth that dogs are only at high risk of heatstroke in scorching temperatures, the scientists say.
Emily Hall, veterinarian at the Royal Veterinary College and lead author of the paper, said: “As global temperatures continue to rise, a better understanding of the combined risk factors for heatstroke will support more targeted owner education to improve dog welfare.
“While the overall most common trigger was exercise, our results underscore the increased risk of serious and fatal heat stroke associated when dogs are unable to escape from the heat source or have reduced ability to thermoregulate, e.g. B. older dogs and brachycephalic breeds.
“Both apartments and townhouses are typically located in the warmest parts of the city and are associated with an increased risk of overheating.
“While it does not explain all of the additional heat stroke events in London, a significantly larger percentage of cases in London compared to the rest of the UK were triggered by confinement in a hot building.”
Researchers looked at risk factors for heatstroke by analyzing veterinary records from more than 900,000 British dogs from 2016 from the Royal Veterinary College’s VetCompass programme.
They found that during the study’s only year, 390 dogs required veterinary treatment for heat stroke, including 72 in London.
The risk of heatstroke for dogs living in London was twice that in Yorkshire and almost twice that in north-west and east England.
Looking at the specific triggers behind heatstroke events between 2016 and 2018, the researchers found that exertion or exercise was responsible for 68% of heatstroke events in London and hot weather for 14%.
According to the study, dogs confined in a hot building accounted for 8% of cases in London, which was more than double the UK’s general figure of 3%.
Researchers suggest this may be due to a higher proportion of dwellings than in rural areas and because ambient temperatures in cities like London can be around 5C warmer than in the countryside.
Just 1% of heatstroke cases in London involved leaving a dog in a hot car, compared to 6% domestically.
The team urges owners to remember that while dogs die in hot cars, they are far more likely to heat stroke on hot walks, and for older or flat-faced dogs, even mild heat can be fatal.
Heavier dogs, weighing between 40 and 50 kg, had a higher risk of developing severe heat stroke, the study found.
dr Dan O’Neill, associate professor of companion animal epidemiology at the Royal Veterinary College and co-author of the study, said: “These results underscore the dual risk of heatstroke that dogs in built-up areas face: rising global temperatures everywhere combined with the tangible effects of cooking living in urban environments.
“Awareness of these additional risks can help owners take steps to protect their dogs, especially as we approach the summer months.”
The results are published in the journal Veterinary Sciences.