By Monique Balas | Special to The Oregonian The Oregonian
The first day of summer has arrived with a forecast that finally feels like it. It may be tempting to take Fido out to frolic in the sunshine, but you want to make sure he doesn’t get burned.
Dogs are more susceptible to be affected by sudden temperature changes and overheating than humans are. “They really only sweat from their feet, whereas we have sweat glands throughout our entire body that allow us to relieve heat,” says Dr. Christy Michael of DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital. Their primary means of regulating their body temperature is through panting. This process also generates heat, however, and panting can cause them to lose a lot of fluids, Michael says.
If a dog is overheated and can’t cool down sufficiently, especially if he’s exercising when it’s warm outside, he may be susceptible to heat exhaustion. That can quickly give way to heat stroke – a life-threatening condition – if you’re not careful, so you need to be observant and act fast.
Signs of heat exhaustion include excessive panting and drinking large amounts of water.
At that point, you want to “get them out of the heat source, apply cooling measures and get them to drink,” says Dr. Heidi Houchen of VCA Northwest Veterinary Specialists in Clackamas.
Don’t force them to drink water, however, or they can choke.
Apply cool or tepid water on the paws, chest and abdomen and turn on a fan. Avoid applying ice, which can constrict blood vessels and thus slow down the cooling process. Keep an eye on your dog’s body temperature. Normally, it should be around 100 to 102 degrees. Use a rectal thermometer (make sure it’s marked “dog”) lubricated with a bit of K-Y or petroleum jelly, and give him treats before and afterward, Houchen suggests. If the temperature reaches 105 degrees, the body’s proteins can start to break down and cells in vital organs and tissues can begin to die. “At a microscopic level, the kidneys get boiled,” says Dr. Marianne Martin of Cedar Creek Veterinary Housecalls and Acupuncture.
Even if the animal recovers from the heat stroke itself, complications from it can occur hours or even days afterward. Signs of heat stroke include bright red tongues and gums, restlessness and agitation. “They look like they’re annoyed,” Houchen says, “because they’re trying to get rid of the heat and they can’t.” Other signs include heavy drooling with thick saliva, weakness, disorientation, vomiting and diarrhea, a racing pulse, and limbs that feel hot to the touch. If your pet looks like he’s having trouble breathing or his temperature reaches 104 degrees or above, he should see a veterinarian right away.
Dogs at higher risk
While any dogs can suffer from heat stroke, some are at a higher risk. Brachycephalic breeds such as boxers, bulldogs and pugs, are more prone to heat-related problems because of their shorter airways. “Nature kind of gave them short shrift in the cooling department,” Houchen says. These dogs can actually suffocate when they pant too heavily or exercise too hard. That’s because extra tissue in the back of their throat, called an elongated soft palate, can swell and block their airway, Martin says. Dogs with a very thick hair coat, those with darker hair, older or obese dogs are also at risk.
If your pet is overheated:
Spray or apply cool or tepid water to the dog. Never apply ice water or ice cubes to an overheated dog, which can actually prolong the cooling process.
Apply wet, cool towels around the animal’s chest, abdomen, between its legs, around its neck.
Place a fan nearby, but don’t leave the animal unattended.
Allow it to drink water but never force it to.
If you can, take the dog to an air-conditioned building or car.
Once its body temperature has dropped to about 103 or 104 degrees, stop the cooling measures or the dog risks becoming hypothermic.
Take him to a veterinary hospital as soon as possible.
Protecting pets from heat:
Never leave pets in a car unattended.
Always make sure pets have access to water.
Don’t allow your pet to overexert himself. Watch for excess panting or fatigue, and exercise in the early morning or late evening on hot days, especially if you have an older or brachycephalic (short-nosed) breed.
Apply pet-safe sunblock. If you’re in doubt, stay indoors.
Make a reservation for doggie daycare 404-596-4333. Our play yards are inside, so Fluffy can get lots of exercise no concern for heat exhaustion. Visit our website www.thepetresorts.com and like us on Facebook.