I see that Dr. Mark has recently blogged about the dangers of heat stroke, but due to the extreme heat of the last week, I thought the subject was worth revisiting…
This heat! My God, I feel like I’m melting. People keep telling me I’ll get used to it, but I’m still skeptical. My dogs and I just relocated from Southern California, and it has been a real trick finding time to exercise outside in this sticky, brutal heat. We have resorted to taking our walks early in the morning and late at night. My Jack Russell Terrier, Hud, is a morning “person”, while I on the other hand…. Well, let’s just say I don’t normally welcome the crack of dawn with as much gusto as he does. He awakens immediately with joy and excitement and his whole body seems to say, “Yippeee! A beautiful new day! Wow, it’s going to be great! Let’s go, let’s move it! I can’t wait to get started!” There my dog goes again, teaching me by example, showing me how to live for every moment… but, I digress. So I drag myself out of bed for our early morning walk, because I know if Hud doesn’t get some exercise, there will be no peace for either of us until the evening walk (Did I mention he’s a Jack Russell Terrier?) Sure, I can put him on the treadmill to release some energy and we can do some training for mental stimulation, but nothing can replace the walk. Dogs live for the walk. But, we must be careful! Too many dogs die unnecessarily from heat stroke every year. Yes, it can be fatal. It usually happens very fast and it is not something to be taken lightly. This weekend, on Lake Conroe, I witnessed a dog that was left in a boat during the hottest part of the day, for over two hours while her people were relaxing in an air conditioned restaurant. I cannot stress enough how dangerous this is.
I assume that some pet owners believe that they are “just dogs” and therefore are able to handle more severe weather conditions than humans. In fact, the opposite is true. We as humans sweat. We have pores throughout our entire body that we sweat through. A dog cannot sweat and they absolutely cannot tolerate high environmental temperatures as well as humans can. Dogs depend upon panting to make the transfer of warm air to cool air. When the temperature of the air is comparable to the body temperature, cooling by panting is not an efficient process.
SUMMER SAFETY TIPS:
- Dogs should not be left in parked cars! Even with the windows open, a parked automobile can quickly become a furnace in no time. Parking in the shade offers little protection, as the sun shifts during the day.
- Do not Exercise strenuously in hot, humid weather. Your dog may be so enthusiastic about playing or exercising that they continue to do so even when they are already overheating. Their physical limits may be different from mental ones, so you need to refrain from over-exercising or over-stimulating your dog during these very hot days.
- Be especially sensitive to older and overweight animals in hot weather. Brachycephalic or snub-nosed dogs such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus, as well as those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.
- Don’t leave your dog standing on hot asphalt, sensitive paw pads can burn. Keep walks during hot times to a minimum.
- Dogs should have access to fresh water and shelter at all times. This is a must! Never leave your dogs without shade/shelter or water for any length of time, and always bring water with you on long walks or car trips.
SIGNS OF HEAT STROKE:
- Heavy panting and difficulty breathing. The tongue and mucous membranes will appear bright red.
- The saliva is thick and tenacious, and the dog often vomits.
- The rectal temperature rises to 104 to 110 degrees.
- The dog becomes progressively unsteady and passes bloody diarrhea.
- With shock, lips and mucous membranes turn gray.
- Collapse, seizures, and death ensue rapidly.
- Take measures to cool the dog at once.
- Take the dog away from the heat source.
- If the temperature is above 104 degrees, begin rapid cooling.
- Using a garden hose, spray the pads, under the front arm pits, and under the groin and belly regions.
- Use alcohol on extremities.
- You may immerse the dog in a tub of water for up to two minutes and if possible place the dog in front of an electric fan.
- Monitor the temperature and continue the cooling process until the temperature reaches 103 degrees.
- Once the dog reaches 103 degrees, stop the cooling process. Going lower than 103 degrees could cause the dog to go into shock.
- Take to the vet immediately!
“No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich.”
Certified Canine Trainer & Behavior Specialist
Professional Dog Training in Houston, TX