Written by: Marie Collett
As we enter what is typically the hottest part of summer (although you wouldn’t know it from the weather we’ve had so far here in St. Louis), we at Helping Hounds Training wanted to offer some tips about helping our furry friends beat the heat. Dogs exposed to excessive heat can suffer from heat stress, heat exhaustion, heat stroke or heat prostration, which are increasing levels of intensity for basically the same condition. Dogs can even get sunburn. As their caregivers, we must be sure to make our pets as comfortable and safe as possible.
While dogs do have sweat glands in their feet, they mostly rely on panting to help cool themselves down, which is not very effective. Dogs with shorter snouts, like boxers or pugs for example, have smaller airways, making them even more susceptible to complications brought about by the heat. Consider also your dog’s age, coat type, weight, general health, and current medications as these factors can also effect how he tolerates heat. And even though different dogs tolerate heat differently, we need to know what the symptoms are for overheating. Here are some of the warning signs to be aware of:
- heavy panting or gasping for air
- drooling early on, then dry gums as heat prostration sets in
- glassy eyes
- anxious expression
- dry, warm skin
- rapid heartbeat
- bright red mucous membrane or gums and conjunctiva of eyes
- petechiae (small, dark red spot hemorrhages on gums or skin)
- refusal to obey commands
If you notice any of these signs in your dog, you must act quickly. You will want to use cool water, not ice water as an abrupt, drastic change in temperature can also be dangerous. Offer him a drink of water and put cool water on your dog’s chest, head, neck, and feet. Blood circulates close to the surface at their necks and throats so this cools them down quickly. Since a lot of heat exits through a dog’s feet, getting him to stand in cool water can be helpful, too. Have him stand in the sink, tub, a kiddie pool, or a stream, whatever is handy at the moment. You can also put cool wet towels around his body (refreshing them every few minutes) or pour continuous water over him with a hose or bucket. If you can, get extra air flowing over his wet coat to help him cool down.
Even if he seems to be recovering, take him to a vet as soon as possible. The dog’s temperature may rise again, which can cause complications. Heat stress also carries a risk of possible brain damage so it’s always better to be safe by taking him to the vet to be checked out.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best way to avoid any issues are to take steps beforehand to make sure that your dog will stay cool in the summer. There are tons of products on the market now to help dogs stay cool, such as cooling collars and vests, dog sunscreen, solar shade sheets, booties to protect paws from hot pavement, and much more. And while these can be helpful, they are not to be used as substitutes for keeping shade and fresh, cool water available.
Even days with moderate temperatures and high humidity levels can stress a dog’s body.
Some other options include wetting a cotton t-shirt or bandana for the dog to wear, using a fan to keep air circulating in a kennel or crate, or using a Kong
stuffed with frozen healthy goodies. Avoid long walks or strenuous exercise during the hottest parts of the day, between 10 am and 4 pm. Never leave your dog in a parked car (even for just a few minutes) without air conditioning and water. And remember, concrete and asphalt can get very hot. If it’s too hot for you to walk barefoot, it’s too hot for your dog’s paw pads.
Summer activities can still be fun for you and your dog. Just make sure you’re prepared for the heat. As long as you can provide plenty of shade, rest, and fresh water, you and your furry friend can enjoy a wonderful summer together, having fun and making memories.