Avoiding Canine Heatstroke This Summer
With temperatures climbing this month, it is not just you sweating it out- your pet is uncomfortable too. For a dog, temperatures above 80 degrees can be deadly. During the summer, pet owners should guard against canine heatstroke, a deadly, but completely preventable, condition.
Humans can perspire all over their body, but a dog’s hairy coat makes it difficult to release heat. The main way a dog cools down is by panting, quickly expelling breath causing moisture to evaporate, cooling the blood inside the mouth and tongue. However, several factors can make this cooling method less effective, such as high heat or humidity. Certain breeds, such as those with compressed snouts and small dogs including puppies, have a lower tolerance for heat above 75 degrees. Even in the shade, no amount of panting will reduce the dog’s temperature enough.
Here are some tips for human paw-rents to help dogs beat the heat this summer.
Leave your hound at home
It is hard to leave our best friend at home when those eyes beg to come along. Unless you are headed to the lake or a doggy pool party, the best place for pup during a heatwave is at home. Keep the house cool, and let your friend have some doggy down time.
For some cool stay-at-home treats, put some ice cubes in the water bowl, or make a pup-cycle ahead of time by stuffing a Kong with pumpkin or peanut butter and freezing it.
To avoid anxiety, spend some play time together before you leave and make sure there is a potty break. Leave behind a puzzle toy or other sturdy entertainment such as a wobble wag giggle ball.
Stay safe in the sun
Avoid peek temperatures while out and about with your dog. Take your walk early in the morning or in the evening when it has cooled off. Wrap a cooling towel loosely around your pet’s neck, tucking ends into her collar, when she starts to pant. There are also cooling bandanas you can buy on Amazon. To spend time with Fido out in the yard, consider getting an inexpensive wading pool or sprinkler.
As hot as it is outside, the inside of a vehicle can become an oven, even with the windows cracked. So, if you take your dog along, the best plan is to not leave him in the car. If you must leave Fido for a few, leave the AC on. Just be aware that this is not a foolproof system, and should only be done briefly. If something were to happen and the AC went out, it could be deadly for your pet. Leaving a pet tied up outdoors is also not a good idea as heatstroke can occur in minutes in the sunshine. Take another human along so they can help manage your pet, staying outside in the shade with some drinking water while you go inside. When you grab and fill your water bottle before leaving home, fill up Fido’s too, such as this one which comes with its own attached bowl.
Dogs are barefoot
With scorching temps come hot pavement, sidewalks and beach sand which can burn a dog’s paws. Keep to the grass or trail, and seek out shade whenever you can.
Leave it fur-real
Owners of shaggy-haired pets often give their pooch a shave during the summer. However, many veterinarians advise leaving the long coat on during the summer. Instead, brush your dog regularly to get rid of the undercoat that may be trapping more heat than necessary. The long outer layer shields against heat and UV radiation.
Watch for symptoms of heat stroke
In an epic heatwave, keep an eye on your dog’s behavior, including these signs of heatstroke:
- excessive or exaggerated panting
- thick saliva
- dark red gums
- swollen tongue
- rapid heartbeat
- heavy drooling
If your dog has any of these symptoms, take it to the vet immediately. Heat stroke kills quickly—even waiting a few minutes could lead to permanent organ damage or death.
Go jump in a lake
Humans and their canine companions can both find some relief from the heat by going for a dip a nearby lake. It’s the best way you can both enjoy the sunshine and stay cool this summer.