High temperatures can be deadly for Fido
By Robin Breenen
The dog days of summer can be hazardous for your pet. Be a cool owner and help your canine companion beat the heat this summer.
It is important to realize that people and animals differ greatly in their ability to regulate internal body temperature. Humans have hundreds of sweat glands, all over the body, that help us stay cool by releasing moisture which evaporates on the skin’s surface. Dogs have very few sweat glands, all of which are located in the pads of their feet. Dogs cool themselves primarily by the process of panting and breathing, with the moist lining of their lungs, tongue, mucous membranes and windpipe serving as the evaporative surfaces. Dogs also release heat by dilating blood vessels in the face, ears and hairless areas of the body like the armpits and groin. This allows blood to flow closer to the skin’s surface, where it has a chance to cool down.
Minimizing your dog’s exposure to extreme temperatures can prevent a life-threatening condition called hyperthermia, which can lead to heat stroke. A dog’s normal body temperature is 101–103 degrees Farenheit. Hyperthermia is a sustained core body temperature over 105, due to the dog’s inability to cool itself efficiently. Certain dogs are at higher risk because of their body conformations or medical conditions. At-risk dogs are those that have thick hair coats, flat faces (like bulldogs), lung/breathing or heart problems, or that are older or overweight. Symptoms include hard and harsh panting, deep red gums, drooling, sluggishness, disorientation, vomiting and diarrhea. Internal body temperatures over 105–106 degrees can quickly lead to organ failure and death. These temperatures can be reached even with moderate heat and exercise. I have seen this happen to a dog who sat under a hair dryer too long while at the groomer!
Never leave your dog unattended in a parked car, even for a minute. Temperatures inside that vehicle can easily reach 160 degrees in a matter of minutes. Five minutes inside can lead to death. Consider leaving your dog at home when you run errands on a hot day.
I see many dogs being walked with canvas muzzles in place, presumably because they don’t get along well with people or other dogs. While you may be trying to prevent a bite, you are also preventing your dog from panting and cooling off. Basket muzzles are a much better alternative, as they allow your dog to pant freely, but also add the layer of protection you are looking for.
If you enjoy exercising with your dog, do so at the coolest part of the day. Noontime jogs are not a good idea.
If you think your pet may be experiencing heat stroke, take immediate steps to cool him/her down, then seek veterinary attention at the Animal Hospitals at Bideawee or from your veterinarian. This usually entails hosing your dog off with cool water or submerging him/her in a tepid bath; it may not be enough to just bring your pet into an air-conditioned room. Ice packs applied to the armpit and groin can also help cool your dog. Once at the vet, further cooling procedures can be administered. However, some of the consequences of prolonged, extreme elevations in body temperature can cause an irreversible process of multi-organ system failure leading to death.
On hot days, the coolest thing to do may be to leave Fido at home.
Robin Brennen is chief of veterinary services & VP Program Operations at Bideawee.
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