Dogs suffering with heatstroke could become more unwell or even die because of outdated first aid, a new study reveals.
The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) found less than a quarter of dogs with heatstroke had been actively cooled before being transferred to the vet.
In addition, more than half of the dogs that were cooled had been treated with outdated methods of applying wet towels.
The RVC explains that many websites advise owners cool their dogs slowly using “tepid but not cold water”, but there is no substantial evidence to support this guidance.
The latest guidance states that young, healthy dogs can be immersed in cold water and older dogs or those with underlying health problems can have water poured over them, combined with air movement from a fan or air conditioning.
Lead author Emily Hall, from the RVC, said: “The key message for dog owners is to cool the dog quickly, using whatever water you have available provided the water is cooler than the dog.
“The longer a dog’s body temperature remains elevated, the more damage can occur so the sooner you can stop the temperature rise and start cooling the better.”
Co-author Dan O’Neill added: “Acting early to cool dogs as soon as mild signs of overheating are observed will save lives.”
The study, which used data from 856 dogs showing heat-related illnesses, found just 24% of dogs that had been cooled had undergone the recommended methods of cooling.
Experts are now calling for guidance to be updated with the current best practice guidelines.
Co-author Anne Carter said: “It takes time to put research into practice, and this can be harder when you’re faced with long-standing myths.
“We urge veterinary professionals, dog owners, and any sources of first aid advice to review the recommendations on cooling methods, dispel the myths and promote the message to ‘cool first, transport second’.”