(Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on June 9. We are reprinting it today to remind our readers about the dangers of excessive heat to our pets.)
With the summer's first heat wave upon us, it's time to think about changing our patterns of behavior with our pets. Animals respond differently than people to high temperatures, so keep the following in mind.
- The only way a dog can cool itself is through panting and sweating through its foot pads.
- If the air is hotter than the body, the dog cannot cool down.
- Walking on hot pavement is like putting the heater on.
Dogs at greatest risk of heat stroke are:
- The very young, the very old and overweight dogs.
- Dogs not acclimated to heat, who spend most of their lives indoors in air conditioned environments, have trouble adjusting to high temperatures.
- Brachycephalic dogs -- those with pushed-in faces, like pugs and bulldogs suffer most from heat.
Dogs are susceptible to heat stroke, and their instincts seem to tell them to slow down when it gets hot. We should listen to and learn from our dogs.
Heat stroke is a very serious condition in which the animal's body absorbs more heat than it can release. As the temperature rises, the muscles and internal organs shut down. It is a life-threatening situation that requires immediate emergency intervention.
Heat stroke can occur within 20 minutes.
Symptoms of heat stroke in dogs are: restlessness, excessive panting, excessive drooling, foaming at the mouth, dry tacky gums, labored breathing , agitation, whining, barking, signs of anxiety, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, lack of muscular coordination and very red gums.
In advanced stages of heat stroke a dog will become listless and weak and experience increased difficulty breathing. Left untreated, heatstroke is fatal.
The dog can suffer seizures before collapsing, becoming comatose and dying. Again, this can happen in as little as 20 minutes.
Treatment of heat stroke requires awareness of the situation and reacting by lowering the core temperature as quickly as possible.
- Remove the dog from the over-heated area, spray the dog with cool water or immerse it in cool water—never ice cold!
- Use fans or cooling pads to lower body temperature.
- Encourage evaporative cooling by applying rubbing alcohol to the foot pads, under the front armpits and on the groin areas.
- Most importantly, get the dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Preventing heatstroke is not difficult.
- NEVER leave your dog alone in the car on a warm day. "Cracked" windows do not matter. The inside of the car acts like an oven and temperatures can rise to dangerously high levels in a matter of minutes.
- A small thermometer in your car will help you gauge the interior temperature. (Village Critter Outfitter sells thermometers for just this purpose.)
- Avoid exercise on warm days, and limit exercise to early in the morning or late in the evening when the temperatures are less intense.
- Keep fresh cool water available to your dog at all times.
- Be sure your dog has access to shade any time he is outdoors in summer.
- Give your dog access to a swimming pool, kiddie pool or a sprinkler.
A dog cannot tell you when it has become overheated, so watch for the warning signs of distress and don't take unnecessary risks with your dog during these last few weeks of summer.