Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Heat is ON

One of our biggest challenges is hiking in the heat. Dogs just don't do well when the heat is on! Although dogs have sweat glands like humans, they do not use them to cool their bodies off. Dogs cool their body off by panting.

Dogs do not do well in the heat! I cannot say it often enough. During the summer we like to get our hikes in before 11 am and we don't hike when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees. Being a Trail Patrol Volunteer for the Open Space District I have encountered numerous dogs with symptoms of heat stroke on the trails. When talking to the owners most never go hiking and often decide to take their 10 year old dog on a hot day for a little stroll. Believe me, I have seen and heard it all.

What happens with your dog when he is having a heat stroke?

When heat gain exceeds the body's ability to break down the heat. The high temperatures cause chemical reactions in the dog's body that break down body cells which eventually lead to dehydration and blood thickening. The strain on your dog's heart is extreme and it causes blood clotting that may result in death.

A dog's body temperature is usually between 101 - 102 F. If your dog receives a body temperature higher than that the risk of heat stroke is inevitable. It happens in matter of minutes. Some dogs recover from heat stroke but may have permanent damage of vital body organs.

What are the symptoms of heat stroke?

  • rapid and frantic panting
  • wide and glazed eyes
  • thick saliva
  • excessive thirst
  • bright red tongue and/or gums
  • vomiting
  • staggering
  • weakness and collapse
  • unconsciousness
  • temperature of 104F and up
  • diarrhea (sometimes bloody)

What do you need to do when your dog is suffering from a heat stroke?

Take your dog to the vet immediately. In the meantime you can do the following: Cool your dog off! Rinse your dog off with cool (not cold!) water to gradually reduce the heat in the body. If you have airco close by put your dog in the cool area! Place wet towels on the following areas: head, neck, belly and between the dog's legs. These are the most effective areas to help cool down a dog. Cooling too fast and/or too much can cause more problems.

Dog breeds with shorter snouts like boxers do much worse in the heat. I have noticed that these breeds have a much harder time cooling their bodies off.

What to do with your dog on a hot day?

Adjust the activity level of your dog! If  your dog needs exercise keep it in the shade, include water, a  doggie pool anything that is fun but keeps their body temperature down. Avoid the mid day walks. Hike early in the morning or in the evening. Feel the underground with your own bare feet or the inside of your arm. If it is too hot don't walk. You can burn your dog's pads. Don't leave your dog in the car. If you are using a professional dog walker/hiker ensure that the van is fully air-conditioned and that it stays on during pick up or drop off or that the walker has the possibility to park in the shade.

What temperature can it be outside to leave my dog in the car?

If the temperature is over 60F it is too hot to leave your dog in the car. Cracking the window does not make it safer.