Amy Olivieri | Too Hot To Trot – Preventing Heat stroke in Dogs | Freedom issue
Picture it — a gorgeous summer day in Florida and you’re feeling gooood! The weather’s a perfect 81 degrees—ahhhhh! You look at your dog, your dog looks at you … How about a run, bud? Your dog gives you a lick on the knee to say he’s in. You lace up them kicks and grab the leash.
But, wait … and here’s a crazy thought …. how about you … maybe … don’t grab the leash? It’s pretty hot outside, so it might just be best for you go for a run without your dog.
I totally get it—not the running part, I discourage myself from running any time of the year—the dog wanting/needing exercise part. But we need to be smart as the adult in this relationship. After working in an animal emergency hospital and seeing a dog die from wearing a costume on a warm day, or going for a run on a hot day, or being left in the car while the owner “just ran in,” I feel the need to educate people about heat stroke. I realize most people just don’t know how quickly it can happen and how serious it is. Honestly, I had no idea myself! But I’ve seen the heartache (and subsequent self blame) that pet parents go through every day. The self blame is the worst. I should’ve known. I should’ve prevented this.
I get reallllly upset when I see people running their dogs in the midday heat or hanging out on the beach with no shade or water. The dog is panting so hard, but keeps going because he has to. Can you imagine wearing a fur coat, not being able to sweat, and then being told to exercise in the blazing Florida sun? (I don’t even like to wear a t-shirt, but I do for y’alls sake).
Dogs aren’t able to sweat out excess body heat. The only sweat glands your dog has are on his paws and they’re actually kind of crappy for regulating body temperature. Instead of sweating, your dog expels the excess heat through panting. Normally, panting is enough to relieve him of the excess heat. However, when panting isn’t enough, heatstroke becomes a real risk.
Your dog’s normal resting temperature is about 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If his temperature were to rise above 105 degrees, he’d begin to experience effects of heat stroke. At 106 to 108 degrees, he’d begin to suffer irreversible damage to his kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract, heart, and brain.
I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, here, but please understand that heat stroke is extremely serious—if not treated in a timely manner it can cause the dog’s organs to completely shut down and his heart to stop altogether. And for certain breeds, it can happen just hanging out in the backyard. Aw heck naw, not on my watch! Let’s learn how to prevent this!
Excessive panting will be your first red flag. Other early signs may be more subtle—your dog might seem less responsive to commands than usual. When you call his name, instead of turning to look at you, he may wander away. He may also be unable or unwilling to move around. The Humane Society of the United States adds that signs of potential heat stroke include glazed eyes, excessive drooling, a rapid heart rate, dizziness or lack of coordination, lethargy, or loss of consciousness. If there’s any question at all, get your dog out of the heat. A dangerously overheated dog may collapse or experience seizures, vomit or have diarrhea. His gums or tongue may turn blue or bright red.
When to exercise.
So … how do you decide whether to grab the leash when you’re ready to go for a bike ride, rollerblade, or run? According to Dr. Justine A. Lee, DVM, a general rule stems from working with sled dogs—If the temperature plus humidity added together are greater than 150, it’s too hot for your dog to exercise!
( I’ll do the math for ya: Temperature: 75°F, Humidity level: 80%
75 + 80 = 155 >>> Too hot to run. YES, heat stroke can happen even at 75 degrees in certain dogs. )
Choose to exercise your dog during non-peak heat hours—very early in the morning or late in the evening (the pavement will be cooler then, too, so no burnt paws).
What if it happens?
Recognizing the symptoms and responding quickly is essential. Call your vet or emergency vet as soon as you can.
1. Get into the shade ASAP. If you think your dog is suffering from heat stroke, move him into a shaded area and out of direct sunlight.
2. Apply cool water to the inner thighs and stomach of the dog, where there’s a higher concentration of relatively superficial, large blood vessels. Use cool—not cold—running water. A faucet or hose is the best way to wet down your dog’s body. Don’t submerge your dog in water, such as in a pool or tub—this could cool the dog too rapidly, leading to further complications.
Using ice or extremely cold water is actually counterproductive to this process, as it will cause the blood vessels to constrict, which slows blood flow, slowing the cooling process.
3. Apply cool water to the foot pads. Rubbing alcohol may also be applied to the footpads to dilate pores and increase perspiration.
4. Don’t cover the dog. One of the keys to successfully cooling your dog is ensuring the water being placed on the dog can evaporate. Don’t cover an overheated dog with a wet towel or blanket. This inhibits evaporation and creates a sauna effect around your dog’s body. Also, don’t wet the dog down and put it into an enclosed area, such as a kennel. Any air flow during the cooling process is helpful in reducing the dog’s body temperature. Sitting with the wet dog in a running car with the air conditioner blowing is an ideal cooling situation.
5. Keep the dog moving. Try to encourage your dog to stand or walk slowly as it cools down. The circulating blood tends to pool in certain areas if the dog is lying down, thus preventing the cooled blood from circulating back to the core.
6. Give small amounts of water. Cooling the dog is the first priority. Hydration is the next. Don’t allow the dog to gulp water. Instead, offer small amounts of cool water, not cold. If the dog drinks too much water too rapidly, it could lead to vomiting or bloat.
Performance beverages designed for humans are not recommended because they’re not formulated with the canine’s physiology in mind. If you can’t get an overheated dog to drink water, try offering chicken- or beef-based broths.
7. Get to your butts to the vet or emergency vet as soon as you can. Like, pronto.
Listen, living in Florida we need to be extra aware of how the heat is affecting our pets. As you may have noticed, it gets pretty darn hot in the summer, but heat stroke can occur in the spring or fall as well. In general, make sure your dog gets plenty of water, air circulation, and shade, and remember the self-cooling ability depends on the dog. Short-snouted breeds like bulldogs or pugs can’t cool themselves as easily through panting. Dog breeds that originated in cold climates (like huskies, malamutes, and newfoundlands) also typically have a harder time adjusting to the heat.
Hopefully this was just a refresher for you—you already knew how to keep your dog safe in the heat, right? Please don’t be afraid to speak up (in a kind way) if you think someone else’s dog is in danger. You could save a life! •
PS! Headed to the beach? Bring shade and fresh water for your dog … unless you want a good talkin’ to.
/ Too Hot To Trot – Preventing Heat stroke in Dogs | Freedom Issue | June/July 2019