There is also a myth if the dog is swimming in high temperatures, that the water will protect them from heat stroke.
These are furthest from the truth.
People with their pets are more active outdoors during the spring and summer, but dogs do not do as well as people think they do in the hot weather. When spring has arrived, this does not mean that the dangers of heat stroke are gone, the dog is probably still wearing the thicker winter coats.
Dogs deal with heat through the evaporation from the nasal passages and tongues. A flat face dog (Pug, Pekingese) is not as capable of dealing with heat as a long-nosed face dog (Dachshund, Greyhound). The flatter the face on the dog the more prone to heat stroke. Overweight dogs, older dogs, and thick furred dogs also have more problems processing heat.
The fur on a dog will protect the dog from sun burn, but does not help a dog stay cooler. The thicker the fur, the less likely the heat from the dog’s body will escape, and the thick fur will promote overheating. Shaving a dog will enable the dog to deal with the heat better, and yet the trade-off is making the dog more vulnerable to sunburn. Leaving a 1 inch fur coat will provide a better balance and allow the body heat to escape and protect the dog from sunburn. Otherwise, brushing the dogs undercoat out is the next best thing and ensures that the dog’s coat doesn’t become matted, which can trap heat and moisture.
Tips for dealing with your dog during the warmer temperatures:
Do not exercise your dog in the heat of the day or during advisories – and this includes swimming! If you want to exercise your dog, do it early morning, or after the sun goes down. The dogs are still using their energy and generating heat while swimming, and still can be affected by the heat. Allowing a dog to just sit, stand, or lay in the water is better than letting them expend their energies swimming. All dogs cannot swim, and some breeds like the bulldogs, Pekingese, French bulldogs are not built for swimming, and can possibly drown. Even dogs that are good swimmers can drown if they are not able to safely get out of a pool or body of water.
Be aware of the dangers of having the dog on hot asphalt.
Keep dogs absolutely out of parked cars during the summer. It only takes a few minutes for them to overheat and possibly die a horrible death. The inside of a car can heat up to lethal temperatures in about 30 minutes even when the temperature is somewhat cool. Cracking a window will scarcely affect the temperature in the car when a dog is present. Unlike children, dogs are not allowed in most places and can overheat more quickly. Leaving the dog home is a better option than taking a chance on the dog getting a heat stroke or dying from being in the car.
When traveling with dogs, be prepared for the worse. Sometimes cars to break down, and when waiting for help the temperatures in the car will rise quickly and the dog can get overheated fast. Always carry clean and fresh water for the dog to drink and offer the dog water and even pour it on the dog. Carry a towel and a cooler packed with ice and a small car-battery fan. Soak the dog and the towel and have the dog sit on the towel or place the wet towel over the dog, and keep the fan on the dog. The blowing air will keep the dog’s wet skin and fur cool. If there is a creek nearby use it to keep the dog cool and watch out for snakes and ticks.
Provide shelter for the dog when the dog is left outside and a kiddy pool filled with water will be great for soaking in to cool off. If the dog is inside, at least keep fans on if the home is not air-conditioned. Be sure to provide a way for the animal to keep cool if the electricity goes out.
Dogs are also not immune to getting sunburned, light-skinned dogs are more likely to sunburn or to get melanoma. Rub a safe sunblock product on the belly of the dog and the top of their nose; these are the most common sunburn spots.
Signs and Symptoms of a Heat Stroke:
- High temperature: 104 degree F and higher
- Bloody diarrhea or vomit
- Capillary refill time that is too quick (this is the amount of time upper gums/or lips return to their normal pink color after being pressed, the pink color should return 1 to 2 seconds, if it returns in less than 1 second or more than 3 call the vet immediately)
- Depression, stupor, seizures or coma
- Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Tacky or dry mucus membranes specifically related to the gums
- Increased respiratory rate
- Mucous membrane color is redder than normal
- Producing profuse saliva, excessive saliva
- Dog starts to stagger and collapse
Fast action can save your dog’s life.
- Get the dog out of the direct heat
- Check for shock
- Take the dog’s temperature
- Cool the dog slowly by placing cold water on him by draping wet towels over the dog or spray the dog with cool water, and aiming a fan at the dog
- Place small amount of rubbing alcohol on 70% of the pads of the feet
- Give the dog plenty of cool, fresh and clean water.
Do not put an overheated dog into ice water! This will cause the peripheral blood vessels to contract and will trap the overheated blood at the core of the body where it can do more harm. The temperature has to be brought down slowly to prevent brain damage.
The goal is to reduce the core boy’s temperature to about 103 degrees or 39 degree C within 10 – 15 minutes.
If you have a thermometer, cool him until his body temperature reaches 103 degree F or 39 degrees C and then stop cooling, the temperature will continue to decline and then get the dog to the vet immediately for treatment even if the dog appears to have recovered. There are deadly side effects that can still occur even days later.
If the dog is not treated by a vet additional problem can occur
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Destruction of the digestive tract linking which can lead to bloody vomiting/diarrhea
- Kidney failure
- Neurological problems to include seizures and swelling of the brain
- Problems with blood clotting
- Respiratory arrest
Fast action will save the dog’s life when a dog has a heat stroke.
Joyce Rheal is Emergency Planning Committee chairwoman of the National Association Professional Pet Sitters and with Pets-life. Joyce is also a federally certified for FEMA’s “Animals in Disasters” program, and a certified pet care consultant based in Southern Illinois.