It is finally summer here in Manitoba and I would like to remind everyone out there that dogs are susceptible to heat stroke just like we are. In fact, dogs are more at risk in these high temperatures because many times they are unable to seek shade, water and cooler temperatures. In my travels around town over the past few weeks:
- I have seen a dog tied to a ball-park fence without water or shade and with no obvious owner around (he or she was likely out on the field)
- I regularly see dogs out in the dog park in the peak heat of the day. The Park across from the daycare has very little shade and the only water available is whatever responsible owners bring.
- I see many, many dogs out running with their humans in full sun on hot days.
- This past Friday Renee observed a very young dog tied to a truck bed at the bank. She waited in line about 20 minutes and the puppy was outside the entire time tied so he could barely lay down and clearly with no shade or water(who knows how long the ride before and after that would have been).
I am sure that most of these people think they are doing their dogs a favour by including them in their daily activities but I really, really wish all dog owners would remember that unlike humans, dog’s have a permanent fur coat and that dogs are only capable of dissipating heat from their mouths, noses and feet. This means that dogs aren’t able to regulate body temperature as easily as we are and they will start to overheat before we do. Heavy coated, dark coloured, overweight and brachycephalic (flat faced) dogs like pugs, boxers and bulldogs are even more susceptible to the heat as are puppies and older dogs.
According to my Saint John Ambulance Pet First Aid Manual, the signs of heat stroke in dogs can include the following:
- Rapid noisy panting
- Bright red mucus membranes
- Thick, stringy saliva
- Diarrhea (may contain blood)
- Loss of consciousness
If your dog is suffering from some or all of these symptoms and you have any reason to think your dog is suffering from heat stroke you need to get your dog to the vet right away.
My dog, Bear, is a big black double coated dog and when it’s hot outside, he stays at home in the coolest part of our hose with lots of water or he comes to play at daycare where it is air conditioned. Since we have competed in trials at different events I also travel with a few items to keep him cool on the road including shade tents, fans and even ice packs to line his bed. There have also been times when I just called it an early day and we returned home early from a trial because it was just too hot to work.
In a Dogs in Canada article from 2009, Tim Shuff offers these ideas for preventing heat stroke or heat exhaustion:
- Know your dog and if he appears to be having an off day, leave him home in cooler temperatures. Also learn to recognise when your dog is uncomfortable in the heat.
- Have water on offer at all times, encourage your dog to drink more when you know he’ll be out in warmer weather.
- Choose to exercise when temperatures are cooler
- Watch what you wear and if you are stripping off layers, recognise that your dog can’t and is likely at risk of overheating
- Rest and walk in the shade whenever possible and never tether a dog in full sun.
- Hose dogs down or take them for a swim to keep them cool
- NEVER leave your dog in the car in the sun.
For more information on treating and preventing Heat Stroke or Heat Exhaustion in Dogs check out the following resources