July 6, 2018
On a bright summer’s day, how hot can dogs get? He pants after chasing the ball: Fair enough, he’s out of breath.He pants when walking in the sun: It’s hot out, and he is wearing a fur onesie, what do you expect! He pants when lying in the shade: OK, this is a hot dog.
If only life were that straightforward and obvious. Heat stroke in dogs can be hard to spot. This means a seriously distressed dog on the point of collapse before you realize what’s happening. This article helps you understand why heat is so dangerous to dogs, the warning signs of heat exhaustion, and the importance of swift first aid. Never be complacent about heat. If you think heat stroke is something that happens to other people’s dogs, but not yours, think again. There are countless devastating examples of police dogs dying in hot cars; professional animal handlers who underestimated how quickly dogs overheat, with tragic consequences. Take a look at the real-life example of Luka, a Golden retriever. Luka escaped from a fenced yard and was picked up by an animal control officer. Unfortunately, Luka was kept in an unventilated van for four hours and eventually collapsed with heat stroke. Her PetPace collar tracked the whole event, including her eventual successful treatment.
The Risks of Rising Body Temperature
Have you ever fried an egg on a hot sidewalk? Heat does strange things to the protein in living tissue. A dog has a special internal mechanism devoted to keeping his body within a certain tight temperature range. Outside of this range, things get sticky – literally. Blood starts to thicken, making it harder to circulate around the body. Platelets start to form micro-clots which gum up the organs. Vital proteins start to break down, flooding the lungs with fluid. The frightening thing is that these effects start to happen when body temperature rises by as little of 3F above the normal range (101 – 102.5F). When the body temperature gets up to 108F, the dog’s brain and internal organs are that egg frying on the sidewalk….
Be Vigilant for Signs of Heat Stroke
The earlier you spot heat stress, the better. The earliest signs include the dog lagging behind on a walk, panting heavily, and a dry mouth. As the dog gets even hotter, other symptoms develop including:
- Shaking or tremors
- Difficulty standing
- Rapid breathing
- Dry mouth and nose (the dog may drool when heat stroke is advanced)
- Staggering and confusion
- Racing heart
- Gums that are pale, gray, or bright red
- Sickness and diarrhea.
Ultimately, this leads to collapse, seizures, coma, and death.
Work out the Risk Factors
It’s obvious that a busy highway is too dangerous for a dog to run across. You leash the dog to keep him under control and avoid an accident. In the same way, be aware of the risk factors that make heat dangerous, and take steps to avoid them.
Yes, yes, the topic of leaving dogs in hot cars is a dull one. But even so, every year owners fail to realize the risk with fatal consequences to the dog. Think of a car like a greenhouse; all that glass traps the heat. When the outside temperature is just 70F, within 10 minutes the temperature inside a car rises by nearly 20 degrees. Worse still, after 30 minutes the temperature reaches 104 F. Even on a warm (not even hot) day, breeds that struggle to breathe (such as our squish-faced friends) are in great danger of heat stroke.
How often do you see a pug, boxer, or bulldog that isn’t panting? Not often. For flat-faced breeds panting is a normal part of breathing. When the weather hots up, it’s then a challenge to lose extra heat. Also, when panting is normal behavior for your dog, it becomes difficult for an owner to know if they’re panting because of heat stress. Remember, those adorable flat-faced fur-friends have little capacity for coping with the heat. Always be proactive about keeping them cool.
There’s a reason we wear shorts and flip-flops in the summer! Spare a thought for dogs with thick heavy coats. Whilst it’s true the coat helps keep some heat out, this only works up to a point. When the dog exercises in warm weather, they struggle to lose this internal heat and cool down. Keep your thick coated dog in the shade and provide plenty of water. Only exercise them in the cool hours of the morning or late in the day.
The PetPace Peace of Mind
Your pug pants most of the time, whether he’s resting or walking. So on a hot day, how do you tell the difference between his normal panting, a dog that’s a little warm, and a seriously heat stressed dog? This isn’t a trick question; sometimes it’s genuinely difficult to tell. Which is where a PetPace collar is literally life-saving. The collar constantly monitors the dog’s body temperature, heart, and respiratory rate. When that temperature rises above normal or his vital signs indicate distress, the collar automatically sends an alert to your smartphone. A PetPace collar takes the guesswork out of how your dog is coping with the heat. You can then take immediate action to keep him cool. Talk about talking the sweat out of life!
First Aid for Hot Dogs
Start cooling the dog immediately upon noticing signs of heat stress. First, move the dog away from the sun into a cool, shaded area, offer water, and call your vet. Other first aid steps include:
- Carry the dog (Don’t ask him to walk)
- Use a fan to blow air over the dog
- Get the dog into an air-conditioned room or cool space
- Offer him water to drink or wet his tongue and gums with water
- Wet his coat with cool (not frozen or icy) water
- Dip his paws in the cool water
- Place a wet towel over his neck or against his groin
- Phone the vet immediately, this is a true emergency
Those dogs that respond best are those where heat stress is spotted early. Remember, heat exhaustion kills. In summer, if your dog is left alone while you’re at work or is a breed at risk of heat stroke, then consider getting a PetPace collar. This constantly monitors your pet’s vital signs and will alert you when something is wrong. Remember, for the health of your dog; never underestimate the danger of heat stress.