Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Heat is On

One of our biggest challenges is hiking in the heat. Dogs just don't do well when the heat is on! Although dogs have sweat glands like humans, they do not use them to cool their bodies off. Dogs cool their body off by panting.

Dogs do not do well in the heat! I cannot say it often enough. During the summer we like to get our hikes in before 11 am and we don't hike when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees. Being a Trail Patrol Volunteer for the Open Space District I have encountered numerous dogs with symptoms of heat stroke on the trails. When talking to the owners most never go hiking and often decide to take their 10 year old dog on a hot day for a little stroll. Believe me, I have seen and heard it all.

What happens with your dog when he is having a heat stroke?

When heat gain exceeds the body's ability to break down the heat. The high temperatures cause chemical reactions in the dog's body that break down body cells which eventually lead to dehydration and blood thickening. The strain on your dog's heart is extreme and it causes blood clotting that may result in death.

A dog's body temperature is usually between 101 - 102 F. If your dog receives a body temperature higher than that the risk of heat stroke is ineviditable. Some dogs recover from heat stroke but may have permanent damage of vital body organs.

What are the symptoms of heat stroke?

Rapid and frantic panting, wide eyes, thick saliva, bright red tongue, vomiting, staggering and diarrhea. I've seen some dogs shake from the heat!

What do you need to do when your dog is suffering from a heat stroke?

Cool your dog off! Rinse your dog off with cool (not cold!) water to gradually reduce the heat in the body. If you have airco close by put your dog in the cool area! Place wet towels on the following areas: head, neck, belly and between the dog's legs. These are the most effective areas to help cool down a dog. Cooling to fast and/or too much can cause more problems.

Dog breeds with shorter snouts like boxers due much worse in the heat. I have noticed that these breeds have a much harder time cooling their bodies off.

What to do with your dog on a hot day?
Doggie pool! Dogs love to play with water. I attached a picture of Lola and Barley playing in the pool. Due to the dirt the water turned muddy and the dogs rolled in the mud after that. They had a blast and I ended up bathing them before they went home!!!