The Paw Print Genetics Blog

Part 1: Saving Dogs from Summer Heat

Part 1: Saving Dogs from Summer Heat

Summer has officially started, but temperatures that make for great beach-going time for you pose a deadly risk to your dog.

You have to remember: dogs are physically adapted to conserve and recycle heat. They don’t cool by sweating; heat generated by exercise (even just the physiology of body functions) is trapped inside. Their fur coats insulate them further. Brachycephalic (short face) dogs such as the bulldog, pug, boxer and Pekingese have it even harder because they can’t pant as sufficiently as other dogs, which compounds heat-related issues. However, if you trap any dog in a hot area with no way for them to release or escape that heat, their body will become so stressed that it can cause death – and it can happen very quickly, too.

To keep your dog safe and cool this summer, keep these tips in mind.

Cars are Coffins

If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times: don’t leave your dog in a car during the summer. Even with the windows cracked, it can turn deadly in minutes.

I wrote about summer heat and cars last year here on Paw Print Genetics (read it here), and linked to this video that went viral on Facebook that shows exactly how quickly a car heats up (watch it here).

Additionally, the website “My Dog is Cool” has some great charts and video that show how temperatures vary greatly between outdoors (even on mild days) and inside a closed car (check them out here). Included at the bottom of the page are links to studies from San Francisco State University, a study from the Journal of the Louisiana State Medical Society and another study from Stanford University.

Saving a Hot Dog

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s the saying you should keep in mind as a dog owner when it comes to rising temperatures. It’s far easier to be cautious and avoid problems than it is to try and fix them after the fact.

Again, I write about this every summer here on Paw Print Genetics (read it here) and over at Outdoor Life (“Heat Stress: Quick Death for Dogs”). In short, you need to recognize the signs of heat stress in a dog:

  • The mouth: Excessive panting and an extremely widened tongue that’s cupped at the end are initial indicators of heat stress. Take a break, get the dog some water and wait until things return to normal.
  • The gait: Watch how your dog is running, walking and following commands. A stumble or disregarded command might not be momentary misstep or stubbornness, but instead a display of physical and mental stress brought on by overheating.
  • The eyes: Glassy eyes in occurrence with physical or mental stress are a very good indicator that something is seriously wrong with your dog.

And then you need to do something about it.

  • Not too fast: Don’t put an overheating dog immediately into an ice bath, as it can lead to shock. Instead, ease them into the cooling process. Cool water taken by mouth (not too much, however) and poured over the body, placement in a cool pond with water continually flushed over the skin (get past that undercoat folks!), and placing ice along the stomach, inner thighs, ears and other areas with high skin contact will help.
  • Not too deep: Don’t just turn your dog loose, even if it’s walking okay. If heat stress has set in, they could collapse and if they’re swimming in deep water when they go down, you’re in trouble.
  • Not too long: Stopping the climb of the internal body temperature of the dog and then reversing it is the main goal. Cool-to-cold water, ponds, ice, air-conditioning and the like all help get the process going, but as soon as it begins to take place, stop administering it. Just as the dog’s body continues to heat as stress begins to set in, the internal body temperature continues to cool as it comes down. Too much of a good thing can lead to problems in the other direction (low body temperatures and hypothermia), which will compound the stress on the dog and its internal organs/systems.

In part two, we'll talk about commonsense rules that can keep your dog from overheating in the first place, and steps you can take to keep your dogs cool outside while you're at work and while traveling by car this summer.

*Photo courtesy of Marc Falardeau via Flickr Creative Commons License*