88 degrees!!! Yes, that is what the weatherman reported the temperature is likely to be this Sunday! I am going to be at a dog show. That means I need to do extra planning. We will be in-doors but not in an air conditioned building.
Most of us know how to plan for the higher temperatures and make adjustments so we can continue our normal activities without problems. Most of the things we do for ourselves are what we should also do for our pets.
We need to make sure there is enough water for ourselves and our pets. I have a friend that told me that she wears black pants when she walks her dog (the dog has a heavy black coat) and that way she is reminded about every 30 minutes to offer water to her dog. My sister pours water over her dogs and lets them enjoy the cooling evaporation process.
Since dogs do not have sweat glands the way humans do, they are limited to panting as their major cooling effort. You are probably saying they do have sweat glands in their paws, and you are correct. However, these are not the principal mechanisms for cooling. Panting takes energy and can tire a dog. Panting along with the insulation effect or their fur, means they are susceptible for heat exhaustion, particularly if they have not yet built up a tolerance to the heat.
Everyone should know the signs of heat exhaustion and impending heat stroke in dogs: sluggishness, very heavy panting, bright red gums, excessive salivation (which may progress to the opposite: dry tacky gums), vomiting or diarrhea, and collapse. I read that park rangers have observed dogs can die rapidly in these later stages. A park ranger in southern California reported that it is not uncommon for them to see several dogs a year die of heat stroke on the trails.
Certain dogs are especially prone to heat stroke: overweight pets, brachycephalic (flat faced) breeds like pugs and bulldogs, and dogs with dark coats. But remember it can happen to any dog. What can we do? Cool our dogs with water but not with ice. When I did competitive trail riding with my horse, we were told to put the horse’s feet in buckets of cool water, because, the water had a long way to travel to the heart and the cooled blood would help cool the body. I do not know if it is true or not, but I have always remembered and believed it. You have to choose what is best for your pet and the situation you are in. Offering the pet water to drink, pouring water over it, putting its feet in water, or other means are all options.
It seems like common sense that the best way to prevent heat exhaustion from happening in the first place by being aware of the risks. But we would not have to be thinking about this topic if it was so easy. Things to remember include avoiding activity during the hottest times of the day, acclimating your pet to the heat and make sure you take plenty of water breaks.
I usually do not buy a case of water to take to a one day show, but I will this weekend.
How have you helped your pets adapt to the heat? Please share your ideas; we learn more by hearing what works for others.
OH, I almost forgot – DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PET IN THE CAR ON A HOT DAY!
Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.