Keeping dogs safe in the heat

In our area we are welcoming warm weather after quite a bit of rain and many of us are hiking and walking more with our dogs.

Most dogs love to hike with us but dogs are susceptible to heat exhaustion because they have few very sweat glands and must pant to cool down.  

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, skin that is hot to the touch, vomiting, drooling, rapid panting, distress, loss of coordination, collapse, and unconsciousness are signs of heatstroke in dogs. 

Here are some tips for keeping your dog safe in hot weather. 

  • Exercise dogs in early morning and late evening when it is cool. 
  • Make sure the dog always has access to shade and drinking water and that he is not confined to an asphalt or concrete surface. 
  • Consider providing cooling pads, cooling vests, and paddling pools in hot weather. 
  • Monitor play. Young, excitable dogs may exercise to the point of heat stroke so avoid fetch and other intense games.
  • Avoid using muzzles that inhibit the ability of the dog to pant. For dogs who need to wear a muzzle,a basket muzzle that allows them to drink, take treats, pant, and bark is a good option. 
  • Avoid leaving your dog in the car. Every year, warnings go out about the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot vehicle but sadly, dogs (and children) still die in vehicles. A car stopped in hot weather can quickly magnify outside temperatures, making it a deathtrap.  Studies indicate that, even with relatively cool ambient temperatures, the rise in temperature inside vehicles is significant on clear, sunny days and rises most within the first 15 to 30 minutes. Leaving the windows opened slightly does not significantly slow the heating process nor decrease the maximum temperature inside.
  • Use caution when hiking with your dog in warm weather.  Ensure you have lots of water for the dog and that the hike is not too long or strenuous for the fitness level of the dog and the temperature. Dogs often appreciate being able to cool off in a body of water, so look out for safe places for dogs to do this.
  • Keep away from the pavement. In hot weather, pavement can get very hot. The pads of the dog’s feet can burn and blister from walking on it. Additionally, dogs are close to the ground and they can get much hotter than we do.
  • Know your breed’s vulnerability to heat. A 2016 study revealed that some breeds are at increased risk for heat stroke. Chow Chow, Bulldog, and French Bulldog are three of them. In addition, overweight dogs, dogs with a brachycephalic skull shape, and dogs weighing over 50kg are also at greater risk.

There are lots of fun outdoor things to do with your dog, but please keep your dog safe while enjoying yourselves.

Jane Bowers B.A, CPDT-KA, CABC, CDBC

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