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  • “Heat rant”

    So, am I right in thinking that summer may have arrived? And with summer comes HEAT.

    The reason I’ve called the article a “heat rant” is because of frustration at seeing people walking their dogs on sidewalks when the temperature is in excess of 30C. Wake up people! If you own a dog, be responsible or don’t have a dog at all!

    Let’s look what extreme heat can do to a dog.

    Heat stroke (hyperthermia): as “Topdogtips.com” says: “Heat stroke can be incredibly dangerous to dogs. Canines are not able to handle heat as well as humans, making them more susceptible to a heat stroke. Heat stroke in dogs can cause permanent organ damage, and can even become fatal.”

    So, what are the signs of heat stroke in a dog?

    • Heavy panting, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst
    • Bright red tongue and mucus membranes, which turn grey when shock sets in
    • Thick saliva, drooling, vomiting and/or diarrhea
    • Unsteadiness and staggering
    • Lethargy

    Unfortunately, by the time signs of heat stroke are recognized it can often be too late. However, there are a number of things we can do to prevent our dogs getting heat stroke:

    • Keep your dog indoors whenever possible in hot weather. Air conditioning or even a simple fan will help. Ensure your dog has access to clean drinking water at all times. 
    • Make sure your dog is safe when staying outside. Shade is key as well as making sure your dog has a clean, plentiful supply of water. You may want to consider putting ice cubes in the water to keep it cooler, longer. If your dog is prone to knocking over his water bowl, put a second bowl outside in the shade or purchase an “Auto Fill Dog Water Bowl”. One other way of keeping your pooch cool is to fill a kiddie’s playing pool with water.
    • Never leave your dog in a car. This is a big one and rates as the top reason why dogs suffer heat stroke. The heat outside magnifies significantly in a car. A Stanford University study stated that when it is 22C outside, a car’s internal temperature can reach 47C  within an hour. When it is 29 degrees, a car can reach 39C in 10 minutes. It is better to leave your dog at home than leaving them in a car during hot weather.

    If your dog does succumb to heat stroke, the first priority is to lower your dog’s temperature. Take your dog to a cooler area and/or run a cool shower over your dog. The shower should not be too cold as this could send your dog into shock: cool or lukewarm water only. Keep giving your dog water to drink, as it helps them replenish fluids lost to panting. Placing a cooling fan near your dog will help keep their temperature down. If your dog is unconscious, do not force him into water or force him to drink. It is dangerous to allow any water in the nose or mouth of an unconscious dog. Avoid giving too much water as well, because water intoxication can be dangerous to dogs.

    As soon as you suspect heat stroke in dogs, begin taking their temperature rectally every five minutes. It is imperative that you are able to monitor any changes in temperature. Your dog’s temperature should slowly go somewhere between 37.8C and 39.4C. If it drops below 37.8C or raises above 39.4C, pay even closer attention to your dog. Continue taking your dogs temperature at regular intervals until you arrive at the vet.

    When dealing with heat stroke in dogs, and you’ve already taken the above mentioned first steps, it’s time to move on. Take him to the vet as soon as you get his temperature below 37.8C. On the way to the vet, keep your car’s air conditioning on and windows rolled down. You can even use additional car cooling fans aimed right at your dog to keep his temperature stable.

    Even if his heat stroke symptoms seem mild, or if he seems perfectly okay after cooling down, take him to the vet regardless. Heat stroke in dogs can cause invisible problems, such as brain swelling, kidney failure and blood clotting.

    Preventing heat stroke in dogs is much easier than treating one. Understand any factors that may make your dog more at risk of this condition, such as breed, activity level, age and weight, and use that to provide him with extra caution

    After the long, cold winters in Southern Alberta, heat can bring welcome relief but don’t assume dogs handle heat the same way humans do. Be aware and be safe!