When left in a sun drenched car, a pet is in torture, so easily avoided. Too many pets are lost to heat stroke each summer, when it can be prevented easily.
Unlike people, your dog’s normal body temperature ranges between 100 and 102.5 degrees F. When body temperature elevates above 106 F, normal cooling mechanisms are overwhelmed and fail, resulting in a serious condition requiring intervention and medical treatment.
Dogs don’t sweat - that’s why they pant. Your dog can suffer a mild to moderate temperature increase called heat stress/prostration (103 to 105 F) to a potentially life threatening condition referred to as heat stroke (106 F and higher). Certain breeds are more prone to heat injury than others.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING Heat stress can happen quite rapidly, sometimes only in a few minutes, especially in dogs that live primarily indoors. Even pets that live or spend a lot of time outside can succumb to the heat if their cooling mechanisms are exceeded by weather extremes.
PREVENT HEAT STROKE 1. Clip/cut long haired dogs.
2. In the heat of midday, keep your dog indoors in either air conditioning or in a well-ventilated area with circulating fans.
3. If you have a pet that enjoys water, keeping a small pool of water outside provides a fun and cooling environment: just enough water to play in but not over your dog’s head. No pool? - spray from a hose or a sprinkler will help.
4. Keep clean, cool water for drinking.
5. Limit exercise time. Limit vigorous exercise to early morning and after sunset or eliminate long walks/jogs until the weather cools.
6. Extra note: Remember that dogs can burn the pads of their feet on hot pavement.
7. Don’t forget that any dog left outside in summer weather needs shade, shelter, food and fresh water.
8. Never leave your dog in a car. Your car can reach 120 F in minutes, even on a cool day with the windows open, exceeding your dog’s cooling capacity in no time.
9. Be aware that the outside temperature may actually be warmer than what the thermometer reads. The heat index, a measure of the temperature and relative humidity, makes it more difficult for a body to cool down by perspiration. A temperature of 85 F can actually feel closer to 100 F (or higher) depending on the index.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DOG IS OVERHEATED 1. Cool your dog with tepid water; do not use cold water as it can shock their system.
2. A fan will help to cool and circulate air.
3. Call your veterinarian immediately, even if your pet seems to have recovered.
PETS CAN SUNBURN TOO! Why do pigs wallow in the mud? Because they are light pink and white skinned and would otherwise sunburn without coating of mud. Pigs know how to take care of themselves! White and lightly colored pets can suffer sunburn too, but won’t look for mud to coat themselves in, and you wouldn’t want them too.
Long-term sun exposure can lead to skin damage and in some cases skin cancers just like in humans. If any type of discoloration or sore appears, consult your veterinarian for a check-up. Areas that are commonly affected are the ears, eyelids and nose.
BOTTOM LINE If you really love your pets, pay attention and take mindful care of them - you are their master!