The Summertime Killer

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So how are you enjoying the hottest weather on record?

How about your pooch? 

Are you aware of how easy it is for a dog to fall victim to heatstroke, overheating & dehydration? And how dangerous it is if they do? Most cases of dogs dying from heat exposure go unreported but conservative estimates are that hundreds of dogs die a slow, excruciating and totally preventable death from the heat this summer.

Dogs can’t regulate their body temperature or cool down nearly as efficiently as we can — which can put them in danger in a surprisingly short amount of time. They start out with a disadvantage because their body temperature is higher than yours. Then there’s the fur. It’s designed more for insulation from the cold than for cooling in the heat. Have you noticed that your dog’s skin doesn’t sweat? They only perspire through the pads of their feet and their nose. Mostly it’s their feet but either way, they don’t have the option of cooling down by moisture evaporation. A hot dog’s only means of lowering its body temperature is by panting, and that just doesn’t get the job done fast enough.

Symptoms to Watch For

  • Heavy panting
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Excessive thirst
  • Weakness, collapse
  • Glazed eyes
  • Increased pulse and heartbeat
  • Vomiting, bloody diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Bright or dark red tongue, gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Staggering
  • Unconsciousness

Best Practices

  • Do keep a constant source of fresh, clean drinking water inside and outside.
  • Do provide access to a shady area if going outdoors is not an in and out trip. Even a beach umbrella will work.
  • Do exercise your dog during the morning or evening when its cooler.
  • Do provide a small kiddie pool or sprinkler if your pooch won’t tolerate being stuck indoors
  • Do consider giving long coated dogs a summer cut. Her fur can be shaved to a one-inch length to make her more comfortable when it’s hot. Just don’t go any shorter than an inch, because her coat protects her from the sun.
  • Don’t leave any pet outdoors alone when the temp exceeds 90 F (32 C)
  • Don’t engage in or allow long sessions of physical exertion
  • Don’t walk or exercise your dog on hot pavement. Not only can it burn her paws, but the heat rising from concrete or asphalt can quickly overheat an animal that is close to the ground.
  • Never, ever, ever leave a dog unattended in a vehicle. Even with the air on. Even with the windows partly open. Even if you don’t think it’s hot. Even if you like jail.

Worst Case Scenario

If you suspect your (or any) pet is experiencing overheating or heatstroke take immediate action. Move her to a cool area, preferably with air conditioning. If he’s standing, or if he’s at least conscious and panting, offer her small amounts of water to drink and take her temperature if possible

If the dog is unable to stand on her own, is unresponsive to your voice, touch or the sight of you, or is having seizures, check for breathing and a heartbeat. At the same time, have someone contact a veterinary hospital (or make the call yourself if you’re alone with your pet) to let them know you’ll be bringing her in right away. It’s important to alert the clinic you’re on the way so they can prepare for your arrival.

If her temp is 104ºF or lower, remain with her, watch her carefully and keep offering small drinks of water. When he seems more comfortable, call your veterinarian for advice.

If her temperature is over 104ºF soak her body with cool water – cool, but not cold. Use a hose, wet towels or any other source of cool water that is available. Concentrate cooling her head, neck and in the areas underneath the front and back legs. If you can, cool the tongue carefully but avoid letting water run into the throat. Put a fan on her if possible – it will speed up the cooling process. After a few minutes, re-check her temperature. When it’s at or below 104ºF, stop the cooling process and call your vet right away even if he seems to be recovering. Your vet will probably want to see him as brain, heart, liver and nervous system damage may have happened during overheating.

It’s important to keep the dog’s body temperature from getting to 109º. That’s when heatstroke sets in. Within minutes the cells start to die, the brain swells, ulcers develop in the GI tract, and irreversible kidney damage occurs.