Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sweating like a dog? probably Not!

Lowcountry Dog Magazine

by Leah Nicole Hawkins on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 at 11:55pm filed in Health and Wellness Local News

In early July of 2009, the dog world was rocked by a sudden tragedy. Seven show dogs, including Jersey, the 4th ranked Akita in the US, died as a result of heatstroke after being left in a van at one o’ clock in the morning. Their handler concluded that it was too hot in her garage to return the animals to their kennels, so she left six electric fans in the van along with opening a door and cracking a window. Believing these to be adequate precautions, she returned to the house to get some sleep. When she awoke and returned to the van around 6:30 am. the dogs were obviously distressed. Despite being rushed to a vet, only one of the eight dogs survived. It is believed that the temperature in the van could have risen as high as 120 degrees and that the dogs’ body temperatures may have topped out at over 108 degrees (a healthy dog maintains a body temperature around 101 degrees).

Sadly, incidents like this happen very often. Dogs are left in cars, crates, and yards all the time whilst their owners try to beat the summer heat. Unfortunately, while humans can shed excess heat out of the majority of their bodies, dogs can lose heat only through their footpads, their nose, and by panting. Heatstroke occurs when dogs lose the ability to regulate their body temperature and their normal temperature rises to 104 degrees and above. A temperature above 104 degrees requires immediate action to cool the animal down. A temperature reaching 106 degrees is an emergency and requires the attention of a veterinarian. Once a dog’s temperature reaches 106 degrees, the animal can suffer damage to their organs and cellular system that may not be reversible.

To guard your dog against heatstroke, be on the lookout for these symptoms:

Excessive panting

Thick saliva

Pale or dark red gums


Unresponsiveness to his/her name

Dizziness or disorientation

Collapse or an unwillingness to rise

If you suspect that your dog may be suffering from heatstroke, quickly move them out of direct sunlight and into a cooler area where air is circulating. Immediately give your dog water, but as with a human, do not let them drink too much too fast. Never use ice water or very cold water to cool your dog down, this can actually cause their blood vessels to constrict, which may increase their temperature rather than bringing it down. Cover them with cool towels or gently hose them down with cool water. Once your dog’s temperature reaches 103 degrees, stop cooling them. Over-cooling your animal may induce hypothermia, which opens the door to a new host of problems. Whether or not your dog begins to show signs of recovering, call your vet immediately! Heatstroke can damage your dog internally and he/she may require attention for such injuries.

As terrifying and potentially harmful as heatstroke is, it is easily preventable if you follow these safety steps.

1. Never leave any animal in a vehicle on a hot day regardless of whether the windows are open or not. The temperature in any vehicle can easily skyrocket in a matter of minutes.

2. Try to avoid vigorous exercise on hot days. Your dog does not know when to stop so try to find shady places for you and your pet if you must take them out.

3. Be sure that your dog has access to shady areas and plenty of water if it is a predominately outdoor dog. If at all possible, keep your dog inside on hot days. Periodically spraying your dog with cool water may also be beneficial.

It is important to note that these safety steps are especially important for brachycephalic breeds or short-nosed dogs. Breeds such as Pugs and Bulldogs are vulnerable to heatstroke as are dogs that are very young or old, overweight, dogs recovering from an injury, sickness, or surgery, double-coated breeds (such as Chow Chows), and dogs who were bred to handle cold climates such as Malamutes and Newfoundlands. So this summer beat the heat, but don’t forget that your furry friend requires the same comforts that you do.

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