For the love or your pet: Rising temperatures increase chance for heat related problems in pets
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By John Beck
With the weather getting warmer and the temperature hitting in the 90s, I'm concerned about the amount of time my dog is spending outside. I'm also curious about how much exercise my dog can do in the heat. Can you give me some warm weather pointers?
With the daily temperature reaching the mid 90s and the sun constantly shining, I believe it is summertime. The amount of time your dog spends outside is something to be concerned with. If your dog spends half or more of its time outside, he or she will usually adapt to the changing temperature. On the other hand, if your dog spends most of its time indoors, the changing temperatures can pose a threat.
Most pets will seek shade or a cool spot in the yard when they begin to feel hot. Some people say they see their silly dog laying directly in the sunlight in the backyard, and they don't think they are smart enough to seek shelter. A lot of dogs enjoy the heat and sunning themselves. They will find somewhere to hide if they get too hot, as long as such a place exists. Dogs with longer and thicker hair will have more trouble combating high temperatures than those with shorter, thinner hair. Dogs with long snouts are able to breath and pant easier than those that are brachycephalic (short snouts or 'smooched faces').
Younger dogs may tend to overexert or older dogs with preexisting problems might be more apt to have problems with the heat. There is no set amount of time that is recommended that your pet spend outdoors. Every dog is different and their time outside should be determined on a individual basis.
Make sure your pet has fresh water and a source of shade no matter what time of day it is. Some places that are shaded in the morning hours are not necessarily shaded in the afternoon and vice versa.
Signs that your dog may have overheated include: severe panting that cannot be calmed after a normal resting period, excessive drooling, increased body temperature, extreme rapid heart rate, irregular heart rhythms, vomiting, passage of blood in stool, black/tar-like stools, muscle tremors and uncoordinated or "drunken" appearance. If you believe your dog has overheated, you should bring it inside and allow it to try and calm down for about 20 minutes. If there is no improvement, a cool (not cold) water bath can help lower its temperature. Also, spraying the pads of their feet with rubbing alcohol can bring a cooling sensation and quickly evaporate the sweat held by the pads. If your dog is in a really bad state, i.e. not responding, passing blood in the stool, you should seek immediate medical attention. Heat stroke or hyperthermia can cause long-term damage to the liver and kidneys if not treated in a timely manner.
When it comes to exercising with your pet, keep in mind they are wearing a coat. You should aim to go early in the morning before the temperature rises or very late in the evening after the sun has set. Make sure your dog has plenty of water to hydrate himself before and after exercising. If your dog suddenly stops or sits while exercising, they have had enough. With the temperatures rising, consider walking the same block over and over, so you can stay close to the house. If you have gotten far away from your home and your dog overheats or gets tired, it might become hard to handle. If you are planning a long excursion, carry a water bottle and travel bowl that your pet can drink out of during the trip.
If you have any other questions or concerns about how the temperature affects your pet, please contact me or your local veterinarian.
Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org.