Summertime is here, the heat is upon us and you may be planning vacations, weekend getaways or just some fun hikes with your dogs. You may be able to recognize the dangers of heat exhaustion or heat stroke in humans (i.e.: headache, dizziness, fatigue, disorientation, hot DRY skin, rapid heartbeat) but how do you recognize it in dogs? How is heatstroke in dogs prevented? How is it treated? Help your dog this summer by educating yourself and becoming aware of your dog’s surroundings and by using preventative measures to ensure your dog’s safety. I would recommend that you learn what are your dog’s normal resting heart rate, respiratory rate and temperature before starting out your vacation or daily hikes in the sun.
Dogs cool off by panting, exchanging warmer air from the body for the cooler air outside. They do not sweat to cool off the way humans do, although they can release some moisture through the pads of their feet. The average body temperature for a dog is between 100- 103 degrees and when the outside temperatures reach 85 – 90 degrees or more, cooling off becomes more difficult for the dog. Exercising during the heat, even just a walk, increases panting and loss of body fluid begins. Short nosed breeds such as pugs, bulldogs, boxers, and the Pekinese can overheat more quickly because they can not exchange air as efficiently. Recognizing this will help you to help your dog in the hot summer months. Most of us have heard that leaving a dog in a car, even with the windows rolled down while you pop into a store for something can be fatal. The inside car temperature can jump quickly on warm days as well as overcast days due to the concentration of UV rays penetrating the car’s windows. If you choose to leave your dog outside at home, make sure that the dog has plenty of cool fresh water to drink and plenty of shade. Dog runs and tie downs for dogs can be a hazard when the sun changes position and the shade moves or disappears completely. You may have to provide a shade umbrella, small wading pool, misters or extra bins of water or install a Licksit if your dogs are like mine and like to play in their water bowls
Now that you have taken some measures to prevent heat stroke at home, let’s look at what you’ll need to be aware of when you are out and about with your dog. Hiking, long walks or even just a long day at your child’s baseball games, can be hard on your dog too. Make sure you bring plenty of water, a shade umbrella or pup tent (no pun intended!) and maybe even some ice and a towel to help cool off the dog’s undersides if he starts showing signs of heat exhaustion. Plan on taking water breaks in the shade every 15 minutes or so for at least 5 minutes on hot days when you are hiking. When you are walking on hot sand or asphalt, your dog’s feet can blister too! Watch out for metal manhole covers on sidewalks. Be aware of your dog’s behavior and know what is abnormal for your dog. Learn to recognize the following symptoms and act quickly to cool your dog down
Heatstroke symptoms include:
- Rapid, sometimes frantic, excessive panting.
- Tongue and mucus membranes are bright pink or red and the saliva is thick and tenacious (drooling does not mean that your dog is hydrated! Check the consistency of the drool!)
- Vomiting and sometimes diarrhea that can be bloody.
- Unsteady, staggering gait.
- Body (rectal) temperature is 104 degrees or highers.
What to do:
- Move your dog to the shade.
- Drinking cool water alone will not fix the problem! Do not let your dog guzzle large amounts of water at a time.
- Immerse your dog in cool NOT icy cold water. Use a garden hose or bucket to cool the undersides including the groin and arm pits. Use a wet towel or bandana to cool underside if a hose is unavailable.
- Pack ice in wet towels and use on underside and head to help cool dog.
- Get the dog to a vet! Even after he seems to be cooled down!
Some signs to recognize as your dog is starting to become overheated include, whining, fidgeting, and as they pant the tongue extends much further than normal and may be scooped at the end like a big spoon with slimy drool at the tip. If you can cool them off at this point, you can avoid the harsher condition of heat stroke which is very serious and can be fatal.
I always recommend having your vet’s contact information in your phone just in case you need it in a hurry when you are out and about and you may even want to make a list of the animal ER’s that are close to your home as well. Prevention, knowledge of your dog’s normal behavior and being prepared will help you to enjoy the outdoors with your dog safely in all types of weather – get out and have some fun!