As much as most of our dogs seem to love the sun and being outside, summer can pose grave threats to their health, such as heat stroke, or hyperthermia.
Heat stroke in dogs is extremely dangerous and can be fatal. A dog’s normal temperature is around 102.5°F. However, if it reaches above 105°F it can lead to coma with possible permanent brain and organ damage.
So, how does hyperthermia happen? Basically, unlike humans, dogs lack the ability to sweat. So, if dogs can’t sweat, can they do anything to get rid of extra heat? Absolutely — panting achieves heat loss by exactly the same mechanism as sweating. However, the surface area of a dog’s mouth is much smaller than that of a body, making panting much less effective.
OK , so dogs can’t sweat and panting isn’t good enough — what should you do? My safety steps for pets in the summer are as follows:
Limit exercise during peak times of day.
Plan any outdoor activities with your pet before 11 am or after 6pm.
Never leave a dog outdoors in hot weather without adequate shade and water.
Consider how the sun will move around your yard or porch — a few hours can change the shade/full sun scenario considerably.
Water, water everywhere.
Always have fresh water available during hot days. If embarking on outdoor activities, remember to take ample water along. Make sure he knows how to drink from whatever you bring — an extra bottle of water is fine, but if he’s not used to drinking from it, it’s all for nothing!
NEVER, EVER LEAVE A DOG UNATTENDED IN A CAR, EVEN ON DAYS THAT DON’T SEEM HOT.
In 2005, Stanford University Medical Center conducted a study that showed the temperature inside a vehicle, even with windows cracked, rose an average of 40° in an hour. Even with the most careful planning, hyperthermia will always be a danger to our pets. If you suspect hyperthermia, follow these first aid steps closely:
• Move your pet to a cool, shaded environment, preferably with a fan that can blow directly on him.
• If you have the facility to record the pet’s rectal temperature, do so every ten minutes. (A good goal to aim for is around 103°F).
• Start to cool your pet down by placing cool, wet towels on the back of the neck, in the armpits and in the groin area. Direct the fans onto the towels, if possible. This will help cool the major blood vessels carrying blood back to the body core. Do not use ice or submerge your pet in cool water as this can actually constrict the surface vessels and cause the opposite to the desired effect.
• Seek immediate veterinary care — even if your pet shows significant improvement with the care you are able to provide, intravenous fluid therapy and professional monitoring and support are crucial.