Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Keep Your Dog Cool During Hottest Months
Just last week in my hometown, a woman was cited for cruelty to animals after the death of her two dogs, which were left unattended in her car during a hot day.
Over the summer and into the fall, many hunting dogs fall prey, as well, to heatstroke and heat exhaustion. Even 70-degree temperatures will place enormous stress on hard-running dogs. Unfortunately, dog owners do not recognize symptoms nor do they understand how heat affects their pet.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are distinct possibilities if the dog is subjected to high temperatures in poorly ventilated areas, including cars (even with the windows cracked open), sheds, or other enclosures like dog crates and some kennels.
Dogs dissipate body heat by panting, not sweating, and rapid panting causes increased loss of water and carbon dioxide. If the dog is stressed by high temperatures and humidity, like we have encountered over the past week, and poor ventilation, its circulatory and respiratory systems can be overtaxed.
Heatstroke is the most common problem and the most likely to be fatal, especially with working dogs. Symptoms are: panting; staring; warm, dry skin; extremely high fever (106 degrees or higher - the normal range is 101 to 103); rapid heartbeat; muddy pink color of their gums instead of the red-pink color that normally exists; vomiting; and collapse.
Treatment includes immersion in cool water. If no tub or wading pool is handy, wet him down with a hose. As you wet down the animal, let the water run continuously in the groin area since there are large numbers of significant and relatively superficial blood vessels in that area that will allow for more rapid cooling of the blood.
Next, place the dog in a well-ventilated, shady area to allow for evaporation of the water. Ice packs applied to the head and neck may also help. Even cooling of the dog's feet will help. Heatstroke is life threatening, get the dog to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible after lowering his temperature.
Heat exhaustion is less serious and generally follows heavy and prolonged exercise in intense heat. It develops more slowly than heatstroke and may be preceded by a salt deficiency or a complication of heat disease. The treatment is the same: lower the temperature with cold water, and then get the dog to the clinic.
Summer dog care
If you are training your hunting dog during hot weather, keep a keen eye on heatstroke symptoms and always err on the side of conservative training. After a session of water work, do not place your retriever back in its dog box or kennel. Instead, stake the dog out until its coat is dry. A wet dog in a hot kennel or dog box is a recipe for heatstroke.
Avoid strenuous exercise in the heat of the day if the dog has not been conditioned for the strain. Take walks in the early morning or evening; limit vigorous play sessions; and provide plenty of fresh water. If your dog spends a lot of time in air-conditioned splendor, heat and humidity will be tough on his body. Therefore, it is better for your dog to limit the use of air conditioning. If your dog is an outdoor dog, make sure he has well-ventilated shelter from direct sun and plenty of fresh water.
Remember that heat and humidity are more stressful for puppies, geriatric dogs, dogs that are overweight or out of condition, dogs with chronic illnesses, and dogs with shortened faces such as boxers, English and French bulldogs and Pekingese.
Don't make the mistake of thinking a long-coated or thick-coated dog should be shaved for summer. Long, thick coats are meant to provide insulation in both cold and hot weather, and removal of the natural insulation could stress the dog further. Do make sure long and thick coats are kept free of mats, tangles, burs and other seeds, to help maintain your dog's comfort.
If your dog travels with you and your family, make certain you never leave him in the car alone, even with the windows cracked open. If you park in the shade, remember that shade moves as the day progresses. The temperature inside a closed car can quickly reach 120 degrees, even with the window cracked open.
If you must leave the dog in the car for a few minutes, use window grills so the windows can be left open, park in the deepest shade you can find, put a reflective space blanket over the windshield, and get back to your car as soon as you can.