Humans aren’t the only ones who feel the summer heat when there’s no air conditioner around. Your dogs do too. Yet while you know when you feel overheated on a warm day, you might not be able to recognize those symptoms in your dog. Let’s take a look at warning signs you shouldn’t ignore, how you can help your overheated dogs during summer, and how you can help prevent your pets from overheating in the first place.
Signs and Symptoms of Overheating
You can take off layers to cool down when you get too warm; unfortunately, your dog can’t do the same. Without the inability to shed layers, your dog is at a higher risk of overheating and developing heatstroke. Your dog’s coat is thick, too, and that’s sure to become uncomfortable, itchy or even suffocating in hot summers. A fur coat works well in colder temperatures, but it’s not so great in hot weather.
Dogs have a few sweat glands located on the nose and paw pads, but they mainly rely on panting for temperature regulation. Panting is never as effective as human sweating, though, and this tactic becomes overwhelmed as soon as temperatures get too hot. Certain dog breeds with short noses, including Boston terrier, bulldog, boxer, Brussels griffon, Shih Tzu, pug, Pekingese and others, can be especially susceptible to extreme heat. Golden retrievers and other double-coated breeds are also more likely to overheat in hot weather.
If your pet is exhibiting any of the following symptoms, they might be on the cusp of a potentially dangerous case of heatstroke.
- • Rapid panting/heavy breathing
- • Heavy drooling
- • Extreme thirst
- • Unfocused eyes
- • Red or purple tongue and gums
- • High body temperature
- • Vomiting
- • Diarrhea
- • Elevated heart rate/pulse
- • Lethargy
- • Seizures
- • Unconsciousness
- • Stumbling or collapsing
Even a few of these signs and symptoms could mean your pet is starting to experience heatstroke. Summer can be a difficult season for everyone – pets included – and that’s why you need to take immediate action. In these situations, cooling down becomes an urgent matter. Now, how do you help your overheated dog? Let’s find out.
How to Help Overheated Dogs
Whether you’re on a hike, taking an urban stroll or just out running errands with your dog, you often expose your pet to warmer temperatures than they’re used to, even temperatures that could be downright deadly. Here is how you can help.
1. Move your pet to a shady area
First, you need to get your dog out of the sun. Make sure the spot has good airflow, since even a mild breeze can feel cooler in the shade. If the breeze dies down, you could use a portable misting fan to help generate much-need air circulation, and get a cool mist to boot.
2. If you’re at home, grab a bucket and some towels
Soak the cloth in cool water, and drape these wet towels over your dog’s body. Pay particular attention to the neck, legs, armpits, groin and paws. Keep re-soaking the towels in cool water to ensure excess heat will be drawn away from your pet and into the surrounding air. You never want to use cold water, though. Cold water or ice water can be too much of a shock to your dog’s system, and it can lead to blood vessel constriction, which slows heat loss. You could also wrap an ice pack in several cloth layers and place it near your pet’s body to encourage heat transfer. Don’t touch the ice pack to your pet, though, since doing so will cause blood vessel constriction.
3. If you’re out on a walk or are running errands, get your hands on some water as soon as you can
Often this might be in the form of bottled water. However, instead of just spraying your dog with the water, soak an extra shirt in water and use that. The cloth will have large surface area, and it will slow the evaporation process to allow as much benefit as possible.
4. Put a water bowl within easy reach
Never force your pet to drink water. You want the water to be nearby, but you need your pet to make the first move. Otherwise, you run the risk of causing your dog to choke. To encourage your dog to drink some water, you could pour a bit of organic, low-sodium chicken broth in the bowl.
5. Monitor your dog’s internal temperature
If you don’t have a thermometer, you need to buy one specifically for pet use. You take your dog’s temperature through their rectum, so you definitely shouldn’t use a thermometer intended for humans. In contrast to humans, a dog’s normal body temperature is typically from 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. You want to keep lowering your dog’s temperature until it reaches 103 degrees, at which point you should stop the cooling process.
If your pet’s temperature initially reads 104 degrees or less, you might not need to visit the vet for a checkup, but doing so could reassure you that your pet is well. Of course, you should still monitor for signs of distress and take appropriate action as necessary.
If your pet’s temperature initially reads 106 to 110 degrees or more, you must take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Such a high temperature could lead to cardiac arrest or damage to internal organs. Your pet will likely need to receive IV fluids as well.
Tips for a Quick Cool Down
Here are some summer tips for cooling dogs down fast.
1. Buy a kiddie pool
On hot days, fill the pool with fresh water for a convenient way to cool your dog down and eliminate excess body heat. Wading pools can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes, though, and that is why you should get rid of the water at the end of the day. Unless it’s too heavy, move the pool closer to shrubs and flower beds, and reuse the water for giving plants a drink. On a hot day, they’ll certainly be thankful.
2. Give your pets frozen treats
Treats are always exciting, but they even more refreshing when frozen. One of the best ways to give pets frozen treats is to make these snacks yourself, everything from yogurt-covered strawberries to apple and honey puree. Homemade frozen treats will be the healthiest treats, plus you’ll benefit from yet another way to provide pet care. Your dog will eagerly await healthy snacks that provide a good cool down too.
3. Put ice cubes in your dog’s drinking water
To help water stay cooler for longer, drop a few ice cubes into the bowl and fill the rest with fresh water. The ice will melt in the heat, giving your dog a cool drink. Although you put ice cubes in the water bowl, you should be a bit more careful when giving dogs ice cubes to eat. Some dogs can break teeth, and others can end up with dog bloat from gulping too much air while eating.
4. Set up an evaporative cooler
Drawing up moisture from the water in the tank, these coolers will help keep an indoor environment at a safe and comfortable temperature. Both you and your dog will benefit from evaporative coolers, so settle in and enjoy some quality time together.
Avoid Overheating With Preventative Measures
Can you help your dog avoid overheating? You certainly can, and the main way to start is by shifting your daily routine. If you work from home or you have irregular work hours, you might like taking your dog for a walk mid-morning. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the sun to start beating down, and that mid-morning walk might be too late come summer. To avoid the heat, go for a walk in the early morning. You might not be a morning person, but your dog will appreciate that you made the effort. Early morning or evening strolls also help your dog avoid hot pavement, which can easily burn tender paws. You could also try dog boots to protect against the hot pavement, but don’t worry if it doesn’t work out. Some dogs dislike having anything touch their paws. Make sure that you provide access to fresh water, and that you carry a water bottle when you go for walks.
For preventative measures around the home, you need to ensure your yard has plenty of shade with ventilation. A doghouse might have shade, but it doesn’t have ventilation and can quickly become far too warm. Trees and freestanding structures like gazebos will give the dual protection your pet needs during a summer heat wave. As with other preventative measures, you need to provide fresh water as well.
Finally, don’t leave your pet in a parked car. Even with the windows lowered slightly, that car acts like a greenhouse and temperatures can rise in no time. How hot can it get? Let’s take a look at this article from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. If the outside temperature reads 80 degrees F, the interior will read 99 degrees in just 10 minutes. If the outside temperature reads 90 degrees, the interior will read 119 just 20 minutes later. It’s never a safe idea to leave your pet in the car unattended. If you can’t bring your pet inside a store, leave your pet at home.
Healthy dogs are comfortable even when the temperature is rising. Help your pet avoid overheating, and you’ll enjoy many more years of canine companionship.
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