Summer is always a welcome relief to most of us. The hot weather provides a perfect time to relax and have a good time after months of freezing or near freezing temperatures. However, for dogs, it is not as much of a relief as it is to us. Dogs are very susceptible to heat strokes during summer.
The thick fur on dogs means that they lose very small amounts of heat as temperatures rise. Heat buildup occurs since they cannot sweat like us humans or take preventive actions. Their panting is also not very effective in cooling them down.
It is therefore upon you as the best friend to do the thinking for the two of you. It is important to note that heat stroke in dogs can be life threatening and death can occur within minutes.
This comprehensive article, therefore, intends to provide you with tips on how to prevent your dog from overheating this summer. This will save you from making unnecessary trips to the vet’s office when you and your friend should be having the time of your lives.
Symptoms of Overheating in Your Dogs
The absence of adequate cooling mechanisms in you dogs means that they are bound to experience heat strokes rather often and can escalate rather quickly. Sweat glands are mainly in the nose and rely on panting to cool down.
Watching out for these particular signs can help you alleviate the potential loss of your canine best friend. They may vary in various dog breeds but generally remain the same in most dogs. Look out for:
- Excessive panting
- Increased salivation
- Erratic pulses
- Increased heartbeat
- Slow breathing
- Excessive thirst
- Acute body temperatures
- Changed tongue and gums color to bright or maybe dark red.
- Glazed eyes
What should you do then to prevent overheating?
It is said that prevention is better than cure. During summer when temperatures are bound to rise, it is imperative that you be the good dog owner that you need to be. There are precautionary measures that should be taken to prevent this problem from occurring in the first place.
1. Provide a wetting mechanism
During the day when your dog is bound to heat up if you normally leave him alone back at home, then you should provide a kind of wading pool. When he gets hot, then he should be able to jump into it and cool off.
This sort of pool should be in the yard and has to be shallow to prevent drowning, and deep enough to contain sufficient amount of water. The dog’s head should be above the water level when standing in the pool.
2. Ensure a constant supply of drinking water
This might sound obvious, but it is one that is very necessary. Without drinking, the risk of a heat stroke is elevated because of the thirst. When you are around, you should check how fast the dog drinks up the water, adding more as soon as he finishes the previous. In instances where you might be not available, arrange for someone to take charge of supplying drinking water to your pooch at all times.
3. When going for a walk, bring water for the two of you
It is not right to bring water for yourself and not some for the dog when the two of you are going for a stroll. During the summer, bring some water for the dog too. When the symptoms begin to show, find a shade and give the dog the drinking water. Even if she does not want to drink, you can still pour the water on her body to cool her down.
4. Don’t leave your dog in the car
During the summer, the car will heat up faster than the surrounding. This explains why leaving your dog in the car has been illegalized in some of the states in countries like the U.S. You might think that lowering the windows cools the car. This is however but a fairy tale.
The car still heats up either way. The risk of heatstroke will rise exponentially. Therefore, never at any time make the mistake of leaving your dog in the car.
5. Choose the exercising time and place carefully
This is another vital tip to consider if you want to keep your best friend safe. It makes no sense to take your dog for a walk in the scorching sun. Completely refrain from walking your dog in the middle of the day during summer.
Schedule daily exercises early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures are low or have cooled. Skip the walk in the event that these conditions still persist at these times.
Alternatively, look for cool areas like shades to walk your dog. Places near a sea, lake or rivers can be refreshing from the heat due to the presence of the cool breezes. This should happen only if you have access to such places.
During summer, pavements and asphalt walk ways should be avoided. Concrete absorbs heat very quickly and transfers this heat to whatever/whoever passes by. Apart from overheating, the dog might suffer from burns, doubling up the problem.
Test first how hot the surface is and avoid it if it is too hot even for you. You can even use a protective cover on the dog’s paws.
On a warm day, have a leash on the dog to manage its activities. More energetic dogs would want to exert themselves more than necessary. The leash aids you in controlling this.
6. A summer haircut
If your dog is of the fluffy breed, then you should consider giving him a controlled haircut. Too much fur inhibits the cooling ability of your dog. This haircut should be controlled as it also offers protection against ultraviolet radiation from the sun and might take some time to grow back. This prevents sunburns. If you are not sure of how much hair to trim, take the dog to a groomer for a professional assistance.
7. Provide cooling pads
These cooling pads are usually filled with a gel that extracts the heat from the dog’s body. This facilitates the cooling process. This is essential when the dog is left in its kernel during the day when it tends to become very hot.
These cooling pads can be purchased from the stores near you. If you cannot find a cooling pad, then you can improvise with a damp towel that you place on the floor. The towel would still extract the heat from the dog.
8. Ensure the dog spends his time indoors at the coolest parts of the house
During the hottest time of the day, the dog should be indoors and kept cool. The specific temperatures at which a dog might start overheating is still not certain, but it ranges in the 80 0 C points. If the house has an AC, turn it on and set a temperature range below this. If not, then the basement can be a good alternative. Have the dog stay comfy and cool down there.
Your dog has already overheated, what next?
If you suspect the dog has already been exposed to excessive heat, then you need to confirm this by taking the rectal temperature. If this is above 105 degrees, then the dog is at the risk of a heat stroke.
Cooling measures should be taken immediately even as you wait for help. Here are some of the measures you can take.
1. Pour cool water on him
As a proactive measure, hose or pour cool water on the dog. Do not use cold water. The temperature change should be gradual, not abrupt. A sudden temperature change might be injurious to the dog.
All the body parts should be exposed to the water, more so under the tail, belly and in between the legs. On a hot day, you can just allow the dog to relax under the sprinkler.
2. Give cold meals
If your dog can eat, then give him frozen meals at intervals. Too much may make the dog to experience a shock. Frozen beef or chicken will increase the uptake of meals. If the dog refuses to take the food, do not force it. Entry of the cold meals into the lungs can further complicate the situation.
3. Rubbing alcohol on the paws
Dampen a towel with rubbing alcohol and then place it on the dog’s paws. As the alcohol evaporates, it cools down the dog’s paws. It is the same principle as dropping methylated spirit on your hands. The cooling effect you feel will be the same as what the dog will feel.
4. Call a vet for assistance
If you have a vet for your dog, you can call him/her if the situation worsens. If not, then take the dog to the nearest vets’ office you can find.
Keeping your pooch cool is very important and is also an easy task. Simply imagine yourself as the dog. If the heat makes you uncomfortable, then the dog would be too. You would not remain in such situations yourself.
The cooling steps to take are straightforward and easy to follow. Just do them, and your dog buddy will be very safe and happy during the summer. You should also be well conversant with the signs of overheating on dogs so that the first instance of spotting one, you take the appropriate action.
I hope this article has been informative to you as the summer approaches or is already here. This will ensure the safety of your pooch.
Helena Foster is a Veterinary Nurse and the founder of Pawsome World. She has a lovely dog – Lulu. With the love for dogs, she’s willing to share her experiences for dog owners to help them make a better life for their own dogs.