Monday, May 21

Dogs and Heat

This weekend I witnessed first hand what heat can do to a dog.  I was visiting with friends and the dog that lives next door was tethered with a chain in the sun and apparently without water, and we all discovered he had died.  My friend had the unpleasant experience of going to his neighbor and explaining what we saw out their kitchen window.  Though I do not think that the family intended to kill their dog that way, it was still neglect and I only wish we could've done something sooner. 

So in honor of this dog that lost his life, I thought I should put out some information on what to do for your dog in the heat.

The first thing everyone should understand is that it doesn't have to be a scorching day out to be a risk to your dog.  If the temperature is in the 70's, the sun is out and bright and your dog is without shade or water, that is enough to be a lethal combination.  Also if your dog is doing intense play or work, they need breaks for water and shade, and this is much safer if the play or work is in the shade.

Watch your dog!  Is he trying to get in the shade or digging in the dirt?  He is too hot, that is what he is telling you.  Stop, sit in the shade and get him some water.  If he is really over heated, you may also need to wipe his body and paws with a damp cloth (not cold and do not use ice) or have a cooling pad for him to lay on. 

NEVER leave your dog in a hot car, even for what you think is a short period.  It does not take much time to literally turn your car into an oven.  This is a mistake made over and over by pet parents and it costs them dearly.  When the weather is warm (like now), leave your dog at home unless you have the ability to leave your air conditioner running and your dog has access to water.

Heat strokes and heat exhaustion are extremely serious, below is a little bit more on this topic and some warning signs for you to look out for.

Dogs do not sweat through their skin like humans - they release heat primarily by panting and they sweat through the foot pads and nose. If a dog cannot effectively expel heat, the internal body temperature begins to rise. Once the dog's temperature reaches 106°, damage to the body's cellular system and organs may become irreversible. Unfortunately, too many dogs succumb to heat stroke when it could have been avoided. Learn how to recognize the signs of heat stroke and prevent it from happening to your dog.
The following signs may indicate heat stroke in a dog:
  • Increased rectal temperature (over 104° requires action, over 106° is a dire emergency)
  • Vigorous panting
  • Dark red gums
  • Tacky or dry mucus membranes (specifically the gums)
  • Lying down and unwilling (or unable) to get up
  • Collapse and/or loss of consciousness
  • Thick saliva
  • Dizziness or disorientation
Finally, if your dog is having a heat stroke or suffering from heat exhaustion, here are some good tips on how to help (along with the ones above):

  1. First, move your dog out of the heat and away from the sun right away.
  2. Begin cooling your dog by placing cool, wet rags or washcloths on the body - especially the foot pads and around the head.
  3. DO NOT use ice or very cold water! Extreme cold can cause the blood vessels to constrict, preventing the body's core from cooling and actually causing the internal temperature to further rise. In addition, over-cooling can cause hypothermia, introducing a host of new problems. When the body temperature reaches 103°, stop cooling.
  4. Offer your dog cool water, but do not force water into your dog's mouth.
  5. Call or visit your vet right away - even if your dog seems better. Internal damage might not be obvious to the naked eye, so an exam is necessary (and further testing may be recommended).
One last thing to keep in mind.  As we travel for the summer, remember that we may acclimate to areas quicker than our pets, so if you are visiting here and you are from a different climate, your dog may react to the heat in a more severe way.  Same is true if say you live here and are visiting a more humid and hot climate, your dog will not be use to the added heat of the humidity and you will need to take that into account for daily exercise and outings.  Stop for breaks and lots of water and shade. 

I hope these tips help you have a safe and fun summer.  Stay tuned, there will be more ways to beat the heat!