Wednesday, June 3, 2009
By Linda Cole
Heat stroke is a serious medical condition for man and beast. Dogs are just as susceptible to summer heat as we are. Cool spring breezes will usher in summer winds, and we are once again reminded how a hot summer sun affects us and our pets.
A black haired animal has a definite disadvantage under a sweltering summer sun. A darker coat will absorb more of the sun's rays. A white or lighter colored coat will repel those same rays. However, all dogs, regardless of what color their coat, should have a watchful eye kept on them during outside activities and throughout the sizzling days of summer.
Dogs regulate their body temperature by panting. It works by evaporating water in the mouth and on the tongue. Built up heat in their body is transformed into vapor and expelled through their mouth as they pant. The only area of your dog’s body that does sweat is their foot pads and nose.
Just like us, dogs and cats can suffer from heat stroke. Imagine wearing your winter coat in 80 or 90 degree weather. We can cool down with a cold glass of water or by sitting in front of an air conditioner or fan. Tail waggers that are kept outside don't have that luxury.
Dogs react to high humidity in the same way we do. So shade and a water bowl full of cool water may not be enough to keep them from overheating. If your pup spends a lot of time outside, try setting up a kiddie pool out of the sun for them to lounge in – with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pool. Keep the water in the pool clean and fresh. Standing water is a haven for mosquito larva, and you certainly don't want to provide a home for those little blood suckers in your backyard.
Knowing the signs of heat stroke in dogs could save your pet's life. It is a real emergency that is preventable. It's up to you as the care taker of your dog to pay close attention to your buddy during periods of excessive heat, especially if you live in an area of the country that also has high humidity. Don't assume that a full water bowl and a shady tree is enough to protect your dog. Dogs will dehydrate faster in the heat of the day than we will.
If you notice that your dog is wildly panting, has blood red gums, is vomiting, dizzy or staggering, appears to be confused, or has a thick saliva, they are showing signs of heatstroke. If you call them and they appear unable to stand or refuse to move at all, you need to move fast to get them cooled down asap. If they are unconscious, they need to be taken immediately to the vet.
Never use ice on any dog you suspect may be suffering from heat stroke. They need to cool down slowly to avoid constricting the blood vessels which will only make their temperature rise. Get them out of the sun and place cool wet wash rags around their head and on their foot pads. Call your vet for an exam to make sure there has been no internal damage.
The best course of action is to prevent heat stroke before it happens. Each summer, we witness some poor dog locked inside a car in a mall parking lot with a couple of windows cracked for air flow. How would you like to sit in an oven while those who claim they love you are shopping inside an air conditioned store and all you have are a few inches for fresh air to enter your confines? Leave your pooch at home. Even in lower temperatures, a car can heat up quickly for your pet.
Avoid engaging in strenuous outdoor activities during extreme temperatures. Make sure your dog always has plenty of fresh water, both at home and on the go. Know your pet. Some dogs have a harder time with heat than others. Certain breeds with short noses like the bulldog, and dogs who have been in the treat “cookie jar” too many times need to be closely watched for signs of heat stroke.
Common sense along with plenty of fresh water and quality shade can prevent heat stroke from happening. Each summer, hundreds of dogs succumb to overheating but it is so preventable. Keep your furry buddy in mind when you are sweating through the dog days of summer. If that air conditioner or fan feels good on you, just think how good it would feel on your pet.