The dog days of summer aren't necessarily fun for dogs. In fact, they can be downright dangerous, as dogs risk heat stroke in hot weather. On a hot day, it takes only minutes for a dog's body temperature to rise high enough to make him sick and to cause seizures, collapse and even death. Keeping your dog cool in hot weather can make the difference between life or death.
Your dog is built more for keeping warm than for staying cool. His body temperature normally ranges between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, his only sweat glands are on his nose and foot pads, and he's always wearing a fur coat. It's little wonder that hot weather can be unpleasant and dangerous for a dog. If your dog's body temperature climbs above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, his body's cells begin to die, causing his brain to swell and his body to dehydrate -- he's in heat stroke. Every dog is vulnerable to heat stroke, but breeds with short noses and flat faces, such as pugs, boxers and bulldogs, are particularly vulnerable.
Signs of Heat Stroke
Heavy panting and excessive thirst are the first signs of heat stroke, followed by glazed eyes, bright or dark red gums and tongue, bloody diarrhea and vomiting, staggering, weakness, excessive drooling, seizures and unconsciousness.
Stay Cool Inside
Do yourself and your dog a favor and stay inside when it's hot and humid outside. Even if the mercury reads a relatively pleasant temperature, humidity can have a significant impact because like you, your dog is affected by the humidity. The Humane Society of the United States website says high humidity makes it more difficult for your dog to pant, his primary means of cooling himself.
When it's time for a potty break, keep it short and save the long walk for later. Asphalt gets hot and may burn your pup's pads, so try to stay on the cooler grass. Take walks when it's cooler, early in the morning and later in the evening. When you're outside, stick to the shade and carry water with you to keep your pal hydrated. A kiddie pool filled with water will offer both of you a fun respite, or maybe a cooling shower from a sprinkler will help. He'll always appreciate cool towels or cooling vests -- don't forget to chill his belly and paws.
On the Road
The Humane Society of the United States says it's always unsafe to leave your dog alone in the car on a hot day, even with the air conditioning running or with all the windows down. Outside, 85 degrees Fahrenheit can be quite pleasant. But for a dog in the car, it's a death trap -- in only 10 minutes a parked car with its windows up will reach an internal temperature of 102 degrees; by 30 minutes, it's a sweltering 120 degrees. If your dog must accompany you on your errands, keep him with you or bring a friend who can hang outside in the shade with your dog.
It's an Emergency
If your dog is in heat stroke, you must act quickly. Get him to a cooler spot. If his temperature is above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, lower it to get him out of immediate danger using cool -- not cold -- water. A hose, the shower or wet towels can be employed, focusing on his head, neck and under his legs. Take care not to get water into his throat, which could get into his lungs. A fan blowing across him will help; rubbing his legs will stimulate blood flow, minimizing his risk of shock. When his temperature falls to 104 degrees, stop the cooling procedures, offer him small amounts of water and get him to the vet.
Depending on the severity of his heat stroke, veterinary treatment can range from fluid therapy for rehydrating your dog and replacing minerals to more significant treatment. Kidney failure, blood pressure changes, neurologic symptoms, electrolyte abnormalities and blood clotting problems are potential complications resulting from heat stroke.
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