Dogs in heat

Tips to keep your canine cool in warm weather

PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA A dog’s tongue becomes white or blue if it is approaching heat stroke.html-charsetutf-8

By Matt Schickling
Wire Staff Writer

When the sun is shining and the weather gets warmer through the summer months, your dogs may not be basking, but suffering in the heat. Though you might not think twice about getting outside to stay active, there are precautions to keep in mind for your canine companion.

“Treat them as you would treat yourself,” said Courtney Fedalen, master groomer at Plush Pups in Huntingdon Valley. She and fellow groomer Mari Rozanski encounter countless different breeds, temperaments and stories throughout their work day. “You don’t want to be out in the sun too long, and neither does your dog.”

Obviously, there’s the well-known warning that dogs die in hot cars. Most people know this, but just leaving the windows cracked while you head into the grocery store for “just for a second” will not be enough.

Even with the windows rolled down, several studies proved that the inside temperature of cars can climb higher than outside. This leaves a dog panting in an attempt to cool down, but in sweltering temperatures that might be impossible.

To put that in perspective, a recent study by the Animal Protection Institute of America determined that a sealed car can climb as high as 20 degrees hotter than the outside temperature. With all four windows cracked temperatures were still around 18 degrees hotter inside the car. That means that on an 80-degree day, the temperature inside your car could be as high as 98 degrees, even with the windows open. Considering most dogs can hardly handle the 80-degree heat, it would only take a few minutes sealed within your hot car to cause some major, perhaps irreversible, problems.

Whether inside a hot car or house or outside on a stroll, rising temperatures can bring about devastation for dogs and their owners. There are signs to watch for to make sure that your dog does not suffer a heat stroke, which can cause permanent brain damage or even death.

Most dogs pant even after a short walk, but when it becomes heavier than normal coupled with rapid breathing, this can be a warning sign that your dog needs to get into a cooler environment. When approaching the earlier stages of a heat stroke, dogs’ gums and tongues turn from their usual pinkish color to a bright red color. In advanced stages, the gums will become white or blue. Also, vomiting, excessive, thick saliva, decreased coordination, decreased appetite and increased thirst can be indicators.

If you notice any of these problems, it’s important to react immediately by getting your dog to cool down in an air-conditioned car and to the vet or by pouring cool, but not cold, water over the dog. You should also get the dog to drink small amounts of water or provide ice cubes. Applying wet towels to the groin, paws, chest and stomach should also help lower his or her temperature.

But, to make sure you never have to experience this ordeal, there are proactive measures to take to prepare your dog for the heat, like haircuts for longer-haired breeds.

“You don’t want to shave them too short, because they do get sunburnt,” Rozanski said. “But if you do trim them down a bit, it will be easier to detect fleas and ticks.”

Dogs should be given preventative treatment to ward off these seasonal parasites from coming after them, as they often carry diseases. Consult your veterinarian for the proper product.

Generally, if your dog is outside, make sure that there is a shady spot for the dog to rest. Dog houses are not good for this, as they are designed to prevent air flow, and actually become extremely hot. Natural shade beneath a tree, under a deck or beside a house, where there is free-flowing air, will work much better.

Certain dogs, namely those of brachycephalic breeds may be prone to problems with the heat. Many of these dogs have the short, wrinkly faces often associated with bulldogs and shih tzus. The facial structure is organized in such a way that breathing becomes exceptionally difficult in hot weather.

Double coated breeds, like collies and huskies, also have trouble with heat due to their extra fur.
Walking in the morning or evening when the weather is cooler will give your dog exercise and decrease the risk of the heat becoming a problem. But it’s still important to pay attention to your dog’s pace and demeanor to make sure that the exercise is not too strenuous.

But there’s one rule that stands as important always, especially in the summer months.
“Make sure your dog always has fresh, cool water,” Fedalen said.

This goes for all locations, all the time. With these precautions in mind, you and your companion should have a safe, relaxing time through the dog days of summer.