It’s summer time in Houston and that means hot, hot, and hotter! Here in Texas we are experts at staying cool on a hot day, but we can’t forget our little four legged friends who are literally walking around in fur coats. Heat exhaustion is a very serious situation for dogs that can lead to potentially fatal conditions such as heat stroke. It’s our job as pet owners to be aware of how the heat affects our fur babies.
It’s important to understand that dogs don’t sweat out excess body heat like humans, they have a few sweat glands on their paw pads but mostly they keep themselves cool by panting. However, panting isn’t always enough to keep their body temperature cool in extreme heat.
First off, just like with your children, never leave your pet in a locked car! The interior temperature of a car can raise almost 30º within 20 minutes. The AVMA has a whole section on their website about pet safety in cars here you can read.
What are the signs to look for?
The first signs of over-heating to look for are excessive panting, being less responsive to commands, disoriented, glazed or sunken eyes, excessive drooling, and lethargy. Dogs may experience these symptoms when their body temperature is above 103º. Some more severe signs include possible collapsing, convulsion, vomiting/diarrhea, or gums and tongue turning blue or bright red. Once a dog’s temperature reaches above 106º, they are at a high risk for a heat stroke where the organs can begin to shutdown and the heart can stop all together.
If you recognize any of these signs immediately move your dog to a cooler area such as the shade or indoors. If there is a body of water nearby you can let them cool off in it as well. Other ways to help cool them down would be to get a cool wet towel and place it on the neck, armpits, and between the hind legs. It’s also helpful to gently wet your dog’s ears and paw pads. If your pet is willing to drink you can offer some water, but NEVER force them to drink or feed them ice cubes (ice cubes can cause the body temperature to drop quickly causing shock).
Get to your vet as quickly as possible – if you are able to take your dog’s temperature it could help the vet judge the severity of the situation. It is always best to go to the vet even if you feel you have the situation under control. Your veterinarian can do a full exam to make sure no internal damage was done and that your dog is both fully hydrated and healthy.
Some breeds are more sensitive to heat
All dogs can be affected by the hot summers but there are some that should be extra cautious in the heat. It may seem obvious, but thick and long hair canines are likely to get hotter quicker. The best way to prevent this is letting your pup have a nice air conditioned spa day and get a “cool” shorter hairdo (if appropriate for the breed). Just be careful not to have them shaved to the skin as that hair also protects their skin from the sun.
However, these dogs are not the only ones at risk when it comes to heat and hot weather. Brachycephalic breeds (short noses and flat faces such as boxers, pugs, ect.), overweight dogs, and dogs with any breathing or medical problems (such as heart conditions) should all be monitored closely while outside during the summer.
Walking your dog during the cooler hours of the day like early morning or later evenings can greatly reduce exposure to heat while still giving them the exercise they need. Carrying water for them will be greatly appreciated by your four legged friend as well. There are all sorts of portable water bowls available, so you should have no issue finding one that works for you and your pet.
Lastly, keeping an eye on your working/hunting dogs is also very important. Working breeds often times become extremely focused on their task that they don’t stop to rest or drink water. It’s up to us as their guardians to make sure they rest and stay cool.
Always be prepared!
Living in Houston we know all about the heat and how to beat it or tolerate it at the very least, we also know a thing or two about hurricanes. Our summer months falls smack dab in the middle of hurricane season and that means we always have to be prepared for power outages or possible A/C breakdowns. When preparing for these situations don’t forget about your furry family members, and if you plan to evacuate make sure your pet is welcome where ever you are going. If your A/C units go out have extra water for your pets and keep an eye on them to make sure they stay cool. Read our previous post on preparing for disasters and evacuating safely with your pets here.
When it comes to our pets we do everything to keep them happy and healthy. The best thing we can do for them is to keep ourselves well informed on the dangers that they may encounter and how to prevent them. Because there is nothing quite as special as having fond memories of summer nights with our amazing dogs that will last a lifetime!
By: Deanna Smith