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For the love of you pet: Provide cool spot for dog to escape heat

By By John Beck
June 13, 2013 at 1:13 a.m.


The heat of the summer is here, and I'm concerned about my pets being able to handle it. What do you think is the best thing for them? How much time should they be spending outside?

The South Texas heat can be tough. The amount of time your dog spends outside is something to be concerned with. If your dog spends the majority of its time outside, he/she will usually adapt to the changing temperature well. 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 don't think pets are smart enough to seek shelter and are surprised to see their dogs sunning themselves in such extreme heat.

They will find somewhere to hide if they get too hot - as long as such a place exists. Dogs with longer and thicker hair might have more trouble combatting high temperatures than those with shorter, thinner hair.

Dogs with long snouts are able to breathe and pant more easily than those with short noses. Younger dogs may tend to overexert, or older dogs with pre-existing 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 an 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. So double check that your pet's oasis is a haven at all times of the day.

Signs that your dog may have overheated include: severe panting that cannot be calmed after a normal resting period, inability to rise or stand, excessive drooling, increased body temperature, extreme rapid heart rate, irregular heart rhythms, vomiting, blood in stool, black/tar like stools, muscle tremors and uncoordinated or drunken appearance.

If you believe your dog has overheated, you should bring him or inside and allow your pet to try and calm down for about 20 minutes. If there is no improvement, a cool (not cold) water bath can help lower your dog's temperature. Also, spraying the pads of dogs' 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 that dogs 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, he or she has 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 very far away from your home and your dog overheats or gets tired, you might be in a hard position to handle.

If you are planning a long excursion, carry a water bottle and/or travel bowl that your pet can drink out of during the trip. If possible, consider bringing a towel or umbrella to use as a shade source if need be.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at drjohnbeck@hotmail.com.

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