What’s not to love about summer? There’s a carefree attitude brought out by loads of sunshine, fresh cut grass, and plenty of time to play with our four legged friends. However, as much fun as summer brings, it also brings some danger…especially to our pets. Sure, you might be prepared for insect stings, snake bites, and allergic reactions, but what about pure-plain-old heat?
Sounds like a simple problem to avoid, right? Just don’t let your dog get hot…well, a simple google search will show that it is not.
We all know the classic example of a dog locked in a car. How easy can it happen? Well, it is the summer, after all, so we are taking our dogs out to beaches and parks to play. Then, on the way home, we make one quick stop. Why not, it’ll only take a minute to run into the store for milk, right? But, one minute can turn into far too long, through no fault of anyone. So, how do we prevent these tragedies?
- Trainer rule
When in doubt, fall back on the trainer’s rule “don’t do anything to your dog you wouldn’t do to your four year old child,” or perhaps just “don’t leave your dog anywhere you wouldn’t be comfortable.” If you have any doubts, sit there for ten minutes, even five.
- Parking Location
Try to park in the shade and leave the windows down as far as possible. However, if it is very hot, it is best to just skip the errand. Leave the windows up too far; your dog overheats. Leave them down too far; your dog jumps out. Then, anything could happen to your poor overheated friend.
- Extra key
If you must run the errand, an extra key will allow you to leave him in the car with the air conditioner running, but that only works for short errands. Plus, you still run the risk of well-meaning passers-by freaking out over a dog locked in a car with the windows up on a hot day. Maybe they call the police? Maybe they try to break a window? Maybe they just wait for you to come back, so they can scold you? Who knows? Either way, it is a hassle you want to avoid.
Sadly, a hot car isn’t the only way a dog can become dangerously overheated. Simply chasing squirrels, protecting the castle, or lying on a porch swing for too long can lead to problems. The risks increase for dark coated dogs, working dogs, obese and brachiocephalic breeds (Boston/Yorkshire Terrier, English/French Bulldog, Boxer, etc).
But, because any dog can be vulnerable to a heat related emergency, you must know the signs:
- Panting. You know your dog’s normal, comfortable panting. Heavy panting, particularly with a distressed demeanor and/or licking his lips is not a good sign.
- Glazed gaze. He’s not his normal attentive self, eyes are “glazed” and he’s less responsive than usual.
- Warm nose and pads.
- Rapid pulse. Put your hand on the side of your dog’s chest and check.
- Dark or bright red or purplish tongue and mouth.
- Lack of balance, dizziness.
- High temperature. If his body temperature is over 103 degrees Fahrenheit, get him cooled off. Anything over 104 degrees Fahrenheit is dangerous. At 107 degrees Fahrenheit cells begin dying. Very few of us carry thermometers around in our pockets or purses, but for those of you who might, there it is.
If you see any of these symptoms, check for others. Don’t let him continue any activity, but make sure you cease activity calmly. He’s already uncomfortable and scaring him or making him think he’s done something wrong is going to make it worse.
Then, perform the following 3 steps:
- Shade. Get him out of the sun. If it’s a large dog and he can’t move on his own, grab a towel or blanket, anything you can to make a sling to move him. If you’re by yourself, get him onto whatever you can and drag him if you have to -- carefully -- into the shade as quickly as possible.
- Water. There is nothing more important than water! Water inside the dog to start rehydration and water on the dog to start bringing down his body temperature. Cool or even tepid water is better than icy cold though, especially for drinking. But, please, don’t try to force water down a dog’s throat. He may be having trouble with his swallowing reflex and you could inadvertently get water into his lungs. If he can’t swallow, dampen his lips and tongue.
If you can get the dog into water, like a kiddie pool for instance, great, but once again, NOT icy water. You don’t want to chance sending him into shock. If that’s not possible, the next best thing is to get cool water running up underneath his fur or to use water soaked cloths packed against the: groin area, ears, neck, back of his head, under his front and back legs, and between the pads of his feet.
- Vet. Get him checked out by the vet as soon as possible. Getting back on his feet doesn’t mean all danger has passed.
Heat stroke can be frightening, but be aware, make sure your dog has access to lots of shade, plenty of water, and never assume that you’ll “only be a minute” with your dog in the car. A lot can happen in a minute…