Whew, It's Hot Out There!
Updated: Jun 19
As temperatures soar into the triple digits, we must keep our pets cool and safe, so here are six hot weather safety tips to help you do just that.
Dogs can suffer from heat stress in just a few short minutes, even when the temperature doesn't seem that hot to us. How will you know if a dog is at risk for overheating? This question has no exact answer; it depends on the dog and the situation.
All dogs are at risk in extreme temperatures. But a dog accustomed to 90° weather may have less trouble on a sweltering day than a coastal pup vacationing in the Arizona desert. And the air temperature is only one consideration: humidity, sun exposure (or lack of shade), amount of time in the heat, level of exertion, and water availability can all affect how well a dog tolerates heat.
Certain dogs, including northern breeds like Malamutes or short-muzzled (brachycephalic) dogs like Pugs and Boxers, can have a more difficult time in the heat. Puppies under six months, older dogs, and overweight dogs can also be more challenging when temperatures rise. Dogs on certain medications or with medical conditions like heart or lung disease will be more susceptible to heat exposure.
#1 Leave pets at home. Dogs cool themselves by panting, which precipitates convection; their panting exchanges warm body temperature for cooler air outside. If the outside air isn't significantly cooler than their body temp, their cooling system doesn't work, and they can get heatstroke.
Studies show that on a 75-degree day, temps inside a car (with windows cracked) can rise to 100 degrees in 10 minutes. Temps in dark-colored cars can increase even more, reaching 200 degrees!
#2 Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. All that heavy breathing takes a toll. In addition, dogs lose moisture much faster than humans, so they should always have access to fresh, cool water.
#3 Avoid burnt paws & noses. If the pavement is too hot for your bare feet, it's too hot for your dog's paws. So always check the pavement before bringing your dog outside. If you can't avoid walking your dog across hot pavement, invest in a product that protects their pads. Several products are readily available at local pet stores (Natural Pawz, Pupology & Tomlinson's), creating a protective wax barrier between your dog's paws and any surface they touch.
In addition, pink noses and bald spots are prone to sunburn. Sun protection is just as important for pets as it is for people. And, just like humans, dogs need sunscreen to protect their skin from the sun's harmful rays. Human sunscreen has harmful ingredients,
such as zinc oxide, which can be toxic to dogs.
#4 Be sensible about exercise. Exercise early in the morning or late at night when the sun is less intense. While out, watch for signs of heat stress. Some symptoms include excessive panting, increased salivation, glassy eyes, and pale gums.
#5 Maintain their coat. A shaggy coat can help insulate your dog against the heat. If you have a thick-coated dog, request your groomer use a Furminator brush, it removes a thick undercoat while leaving the outer coat, which insulates and protects their skin from sunburn. As long as air can circulate through the fur, this will help keep your pet cool. Please never shave a dog.
#6 Keep up on flea prevention. Ideally, your dog should already be on a monthly flea preventative because it's much harder to eradicate fleas from your home after they've already started reproducing. In addition, flea larvae are practically bulletproof, and vacuuming encourages them to hatch!
FIRST AID FOR HEATSTROKE
Heatstroke, or hyperthermia, is when the body's temperature rises too high. It can cause the heart, liver, kidney, and brain to shut down. A dog who experiences heatstroke can go into shock and suffer irreversible organ damage.
Despite your best efforts, there may be a time when you will have to deal with heatstroke. Know the signs of an overheated dog; first aid and immediate medical treatment are essential and can help save your dog's life. Signs of heatstroke include:
· Excessive panting
· Increased heart rate
· Confusion or disorientation
· Vomiting or diarrhea
· Body temperature higher than 104° F
· Collapse, seizure, or coma
WHAT TO DO?
· Get your dog out of the heat immediately.
· Begin cooling your dog down. The easiest way to cool a dog is to water him down. Use a hose or place cool, wet towels (not ice-cold, as this can do more harm!) or wet washcloths on his head and neck, belly, and under his back legs. Do not use ice.
· Get your dog to the vet immediately. You can continue cooling him with wet towels on the way.
· If you cannot get to a veterinarian immediately, monitor his temperature and check for signs of shock. Stop the cooling process when your dog's temperature reaches 104° F.
· Do not continue cooling him, or the body temperature could drop too low, increasing the risk of shock. Even if you successfully cool him off, take him to the vet anyway. Many medical problems caused by heatstroke won't show up right away. Veterinary treatment is critical.
ENJOY THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER None of us (including our dogs) want to give up summer fun or the enjoyment of a warm day. But a little awareness and a heavy dose of caution will help you protect your dog from heat illness.
Remember, when dogs get too hot, you can generally tell. They slow down, their tongues hang out, and they may even search for a spot in the shade. Given the opportunity, most dogs will take steps to keep themselves cool on a warm day.
As parents, our job is to make sure they have the opportunity to cool off and to be careful that we don't ask them to work or play hard when the temperature is too warm for their bodies to handle. Make cooling activities part of your fun together! With caution, you and your dog can enjoy the "dog days" all summer.
About: Living Grace Canine Ranch is a 501(c)(3) organization in Central Texas. Our vision is a world where 'adoption-disadvantaged' Texas senior dogs are scarce.
We strive to increase canine wellness and life enrichment through the sanctuary and innovative community programs. Enjoy our video channel and discover why LGCR is known as Where Love Resides.