Dogs & Heat Stress

When it’s hot it’s important to be careful when exercising a dog. One rule to remember when exercising dogs in heat is the dog should always be in front of you. If a dog is lagging behind, they are trying to keep up with you. Dogs are eager to please, and they will do anything to keep up with you, but they should be able to do an additional mile for every mile you do, and they should be able to do that in front of you. If there ever is any concern you should stop and find some shade and water and then get to a cool place.

Dogs are panting animals, so they lose heat through their mouths as they pant. A dog with just a little bit of heat could pant for hours if they needed to and never look tired, but as their temperature rises in their bodies or any other condition continues to affect them then they may start to look uncomfortable. If their eyes get a little sunken in or they start to get into more of a sawhorse position or maybe lie down and pant looking very uncomfortable that’s the point of going from normal physiological response to possible pathology. As soon as they get to the point that they look uncomfortable and if you have a concern that it’s heat that is causing this use lukewarm water to wet them down and they absolutely need to see a veterinarian. There are a lot of things that could be going on underneath the skin that needs to be evaluated. Dogs left in cars pose a huge problem. Even in moderately warm days, temperatures in the 60s and 70s, cars can become like an oven while parked in direct sunlight. If the dog’s temperate gets past 106 degrees, this can damage to their organs.

In an older dog their larynx (voice box) or trachea (windpipe) may not be quite as functional as a younger dog, so they may be unable to remove heat as well. Panting is a very effective way of removing heat but some of these dogs when they are older may not have these mechanisms. An obese dog will not be able to expand their lungs quite as much as a slim dog and that can also influence their heat exchange through that panting mechanism.

If you decide to give your dog a haircut to help beat the heat keep his fur at least one inch long to protect him from the sun, dogs can get a sunburn too and shaving down to the skin is not recommended. Some other things to keep in mind are to pay attention to the time of day you exercise your dog in the heat, stick to the cool of the early morning or in the evening. Before you go out on an exercising excursion, be sure to carry fresh, cold water. Avoid hot asphalt as dog’s paws can get burnt better to stick to the grassy paths. Keep in mind that if the sidewalk is too hot for you to walk barefoot, it is too hot for your dog to walk on. Notice if areas have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals as they are often used as part of seasonal lawn and garden care. You and your pet will want to continue to exercise in the warm weather and be outdoors as long as you keep in mind that your pet needs special attention in hot weather and especially so when exercising in hot weather.

For PawNews, I’m Susanne Savvy