It is officially summertime and here in South Alabama it is hot… REALLY hot!! Even if the mercury in the thermometer isn’t above 90° where you live, this is the time of year we pet parents need to be extremely vigilant to signs of dog heat exhaustion and dehydration. Overheating normally happens when a dog loses his innate ability to regulate his body temperature. Their body temperature is chiefly regulated by respiration such as panting. If a dog’s respiratory tract fails to clear heat quickly enough, overheating/heatstroke may take place. Here are some signs of dog heat exhaustion and dehydration and what you can do to protect your four-legged best friends.
6 Signs of dog heat exhaustion:
- Rapid panting
- Bright red or blue gums
- Sudden collapse or convulsion
3 Signs of dog dehydration:
- Sunken eyes and dry mouth, gums and nose.
- Poor skin elasticity, which can be determined by gently pulling up on the skin at the back of your dog’s neck. The longer it takes for the skin to return to its normal position, the more severe the dehydration.
- Slow capillary refill time. To test, place a finger against your pet’s gums until they turn white. When you remove your finger, the gums should immediately regain color. If they don’t your pet could be dehydrated.
Simple precautions can prevent dog heat exhaustion and dehydration to protect your dog from life-threatening conditions which can happen extremely fast.
Safety Precautions Include:
- Car rides – Remember on a sunny day, even 70° can quickly become 90° or higher, inside a parked car. If you have stops to make, leave your pet at home. Don’t leave them in your car for even a few minutes if the outdoor temperature is above 70°.
- Walks – Although exercise is an important part of keeping your dog active and healthy, the summer heat can cause your neighborhood sidewalks to become dangerous for your pet’s paws. Place the back of your bare hand against the sidewalk. If you can’t hold it there for five seconds, the sidewalk is TOO HOT for your pup’s paws. Avoid walking your dog during the hottest times of the day, opting instead for early morning or evening hours – when the sun is low. Additionally, products such as Musher’s Secret can help protect your pet’s paws.
- Afternoons at the park or in the backyard – Even if your outdoor space has plenty of shade, a pet left outdoors for too long on a hot day could become dangerously overheated. Dogs at increased risk of overheating include larger breeds, obese dogs, young puppies, senior dogs and brachycephalic (dogs with short muzzles/noses) breeds. Remember, if the temperature is over 85°, limit the time your pet spends outdoors. Always be sure they have access to fresh, cold water, include time to rest between active play sessions and watch closely for potential signs of overheating. Our dogs don’t usually know when it’s time for a break, so we have to make sure we are watching out for their best interests.
If you become suspicious of dog heat exhaustion and dehydration, attempt to cool him off immediately!
- Soaking the dog in cool water, focusing on the back of the head and neck, being sure that no water gets into their nose or mouth.
- Placing an ice pack on the back of their head or neck.
- Giving immediate access to water.
Dog heat exhaustion can be life-threatening if not treated immediately, but noticing the early signs can reduce the chances of canine heatstroke and death. Overheating can lead to swelling of the brain, kidney failure, abnormal clotting of the blood and even death. If you believe your dog has overheated, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Products to Help Keep Your Dog Cool
Thankfully, there are a variety of options to help cool your dog. Water bowls and automatic waterers are a great way to keep your pet hydrated throughout the day. Elevated cots and pet bed shades are essential in helping to keep your dog cool while outdoors. And for dogs who love to swim, dog life jackets are a must to keep your pet safe while cooling down in water from the hot summer sun.
The information given is meant to be helpful and/or education. It is, in no way intended to supersede, challenge or supplant the diagnosis, treatment or advice of a licensed veterinarian.
Renee Jones, CPDT-KSA, is a certified professional dog trainer, having received instruction from canine behaviorist Dr. Pamela Reid, plus nationally acclaimed trainers: Patricia McConnell, Pia Silvani, and Jean Donaldson, to name a few. She is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). She serves as a Pet Marketing and Canine Specialist for JeffersPet and JeffersPet.com.
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