Content courtesy of Love on a LeashBeat the Heat: Vega, a frequent visitor at the Homestead Dog Park, cools off on a hot day by curling up in the park’s water bucket. Photo by Oberazzi
Summer heat can be extremely dangerous. Many dogs die needlessly each year because of heat stroke and that’s something none of us wants to see. Allowing a dog to remain in a car with closed windows on a hot summer day is probably the most common cause of heat stroke. And leaving your windows down an inch or two will not prevent heat stroke from happening: your vehicle cannot remain cool in these temperatures.
What is heat stroke? It is a serious condition caused by an extremely high body temperature (rectal 105-110 F), which leads to nervous system abnormalities such as lethargy, weakness, collapse and coma. Further signs of heat stroke may include: intense rapid panting, wide eyes, excessive salivation and staggering.
High body temperature develops after increased activity with the ability to give off body heat seriously impaired. This is caused by high heat and humidity. In plain English, your dog cannot cool his own body down fast enough.
Normally dogs dissipate some body heat from their skin, but they do not sweat, like us humans and cannot cool off through their skin as effectively as we do. Panting allows evaporation of water from the respiratory tract and is an effective method of heat dissipation, but when these cooling mechanisms are overwhelmed due to high temperatures, hyperthermia and heat stroke usually set in… and they set in fast. Dogs have defective cooling systems that rely on their bodies releasing heat through panting and through their paws. Walking on the hot earth prevents any heat from being released from the paw pads.
All mammals can suffer from heat-related illnesses, all of which can be prevented by taking precautions. Canine hyperthermia is a significant threat during the summer. Help your dog stay cool and comfortable by learning how to protect him.
Here are some important tips to keep your dog safe and prevent heat stroke:
- Keep your dogs in well ventilated areas
- Provide exercise early in the morning or late in the evening (coolest times of day)
- Exercise your dog gradually. Don’t overdo it. Don’t go for a long run on hot days with your dog. This is especially true if your dog is older, obese or has a heart or lung condition
- If it is hot and your dog is panting hard stop what you are doing immediately. Allow him to cool down and stop panting before continuing
- NEVER ever leave your dpg in a car for any reason at any time—ever! Not for two minutes and not for 20 minutes. There is no excuse. When hot outside, do not take your dog with you if you cannot remain in the car with him with the air conditioning running
- Make sure your pet has plenty of fresh, cold water and keep it in the shade if they are outdoors
- Try to keep pets indoors in a comfortable, cooler environment during extreme weather conditions
- Limit sun exposure, especially during mid-day
- Remember, if you are uncomfortable, your dog probably is, too
- For sudden high temperature changes, allow your dog to acclimate before stepping out for activity of any length
- Ensure puppies drink adequate amounts of liquids
This potential elevation in body temperature known as heat stroke stimulates your dog’s body to release substances that activate inflammation. When body temperature becomes greater than 105 degrees Fahrenheit, failure of vital organs and consequently death may occur.
The mortality rate for hyperthermic dogs treated immediately by a qualified veterinarian is only 50%, due to irreversible changes in blood chemistry.
In short, summer is hot, dogs are already hot, and there isn’t a whole lot of room (4-5 degrees) between your dog “doing fine” and “likely to die.” Protecting dogs from hyperthermia is mostly about prevention and common sense. Take the right precautions, and you and your companion can relax and enjoy the summer in comfort.
For more, visit ASPCA’s Hot Weather Tips.