Now that New Jersey has lifted restrictions with masks, we can expect more people to be out and about in this beach weather. Most of us will want to lay out in the sun and soak up all the skin aging damages the sun has to offer but not all living creatures can handle the dangerous hobby.
If you have one of those cute brachycephalic (short nosed/smush faced) breeds, you may want to rethink keeping them out in the sun for too long; even a short walk can lead you to an emergency run to the nearest animal hospital.
What is canine heatstroke?
According to the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, or AKCCHF, “Heat exhaustion is a form of hyperthermia that occurs when heat-dissipating mechanisms of the body cannot accommodate excessive heat.” In other words, when your body temperature rises past the normal level and has difficulties regulating itself. Hypothermia is when your body temperature drops – don’t confuse these.
A dog’s body temperature is higher than humans. At a normal rate, their temperature is 101.5 but when experiencing heat exhaustion, it can range from 103-106, and if passes over 106, you are in the danger zone. Having a dog thermometer can help in these situations because you can see where the animal is temperature-wise.
Brachycephalic dogs are prone to heat strokes due to their “limited ability to thermoregulate as a result of partial upper airway obstruction” but they are not the only ones who are susceptible to such dangerous conditions. Long-haired, double-coated, older dogs, younger dogs, obese dogs, even working dogs can experience heat stroke so it is important to recognize the signs. HillsPet explains, “while your dog does have a few sweat glands located in his paw, these do little to help regulate his body temperature. Instead, he does this through rapid, open-mouthed breathing, called panting.” When Rover gets too hot, panting sometimes will not be able to regulate his temperature and that is when it becomes dangerous.
Some signs your dog may be overheating are:
- Excessive panting/drooling
- Blue tongue
- Rapid heart rate
- Lack of focus
Heatstroke can happen if your dog is out in the sun for too long without any water or shade. A stroll on the boardwalk may sound enjoyable, but if the outdoor temperature is too high, this can cause your pet to overheat. Doing too much exercise without breaks or making an obese dog exercise too much too soon can cause heatstroke. The classic (and fatal) cause of heatstroke is leaving your pet in the car.
If your pet is experiencing a heatstroke, do not…
- Use ice to cool dog down, the goal is to regulate the body temperature. Using ice may cause further damage.
- Give them too much water right away. The dog may drink too fast causing bloat which is a whole other nightmare to deal with.
- Put them in a body of cold water.
- Wrapping them up. Their body is overheating, placing a blanket will trap more heat.
How to treat heatstroke
- Move your pet to a cool or shaded area with air flow.
- Spraying your dog with cool (not cold) water. Pay attention to their underbelly and between inner thighs.
- Fan them down.
- Contact your local animal hospital or vet for further medical assistance.
Dog friendly summer fun
If you have a walking routine with your canine companion, schedule your walks early in the morning when the sun isn’t too bright or later in the evening. Planning on going out on a day trip? Check the weather and determine how long you will be out. If it is going to be a hot and humid day, Rover can sit it out. Many dogs enjoy tasks such as playing fetch so take them to a park but have a shaded destination to lounge in so they can relax. This will limit the exposure of direct sunlight as well as allow a safe and cool area for them to settle in. Keep water accessible to them whenever they may need it.
Now that I have scared you about heatstroke, go hug your pets and plan out a day/evening trip depending on good weather. Dogs deserve outdoor time, just be responsible for them. They aim to please which can cause your dog to overdo the running and fetching without realizing the dangers happening. And, please, for the love of all things holy, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DOG IN YOUR HOT CAR. Not your cat, not your child – just don’t leave any living being that cannot open the car by itself in a car.
Enjoy your summer!