There are many misconceptions around the fact of how dogs deal with summer heat and what should owners do and don't. Sometimes what seems obvious and logical is hurting more than helping and can cause severe consequences. That is why we would like to present only useful facts.
Summer is fully on and so is the heat we all need to deal with, but our beloved dogs are suffering a lot more than we are. How to deal with thermal shock and heatstroke and save you dog? Let's see how to deal with it correctly and how to know when your dog needs a help.
Dogs in risk zone
Any dog can get a heatstroke, but some require more attention than others:
- Little pups under 5 months old, due to weak heat exchange
- Young dogs under 2 years old, who never been through a really hot summer before
- All dogs with diseases of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems
- Any dog with excessive weight, since their heart needs to work more
- Very hairy and fluffy dogs, especially if they did not moult before summer
- Smooth haired dark dogs, too little hair does not protect them well from the sun
- Older dogs, due to potential heart problems
- Dogs that used to live in a more cold weather and were move to a much wormer place
- Dogs with a shortened muzzle (Brachycephalic dogs)
Things you should NOT do
What often seems logical can actually do more harm than help our dogs, so read these carefully and make sure you don't do this with your dog.
- Do not pour water on the back and head of your dog, smooth haired dogs will suffer from heat faster because sun will be able to rich their skin more easily. Very hairy and fluffy dogs will feel even more heat, because their undercoat will dry much slower, making their skin to feel much more heat
- Do not allow your dog to swim in a cold water to cool down. Similar to people, extreme temperature change can cause their heart and lung to suffer. In real bad scenario, dogs heart can stop. To avoid this, let you dog to get used to the water first, not more than a belly level and keep an eye on the time spent in water
- Do not use ice packs to cool down your dog, again it will make more harm then good due to extreme temperature change
- Do not give your dog ice water to drink, it should be cool, but not ice cold
- Do not cover the dog with a wet cloth on top. Wet cloth presses the dog's coat, prevents it from venting, and heats up quickly. Short-term wrapping in a wet, cool cloth sometimes is necessary, but you should constantly check with your hand under the cloth if the dog is getting hotter than it was. If the coat is warm remove wrapping immediately
- Do not cut furry dogs to a very short coat. It is a dog's natural protection against the sun and adverse environmental conditions.
Helping your dog to survive the heat
There is a lot you can do for your dog to feel much more comfortable and get used to really warm sunny days.
- Go for a walk in early mornings or late evenings to avoid the time when sun is the strongest. Avoid too much activities and instead of running and jumping go to a new area to explore new things
- If you have no other choice to walk your dog, but under the sun, do take a chill (not ice cold) drinking water with you and avoid pavement and concrete. Move in a shadow and if you see your dog breathing heavily, stop and offer a drink. You can use water to wet the dogs belly and breast, but not head and back (try to rich the skin).
- If your dog is from a risk zone or not used to heat you need to get a cooling vest. There are a lot of them available and they do a good job to keep your dog cool for 1-2 hours, which is enough for a walk. You must check every half an hour if your dog is a bit cooler under the vest and if it's not, remove it.
- Be sure to comb out all the excess undercoat from your dog. Not all dogs molt on time, and many of them need help
- If you take your dog with you in a car without air conditioning or if you don't have air conditioning at home, there are cooling mats you can use. The best cooling mats are those with a special filler, rather than those you need to wet yourself
- Be sure to change drinking water for your dog more often and keep it cool, dog needs to drink a lot more in a summer heat
- If you need to put a muzzle on the dog make sure it is comfortable. The muzzle should be very loose so that the dog can open its mouth easily and can pull out its tongue at least partially
- Never leave your dog in a car without air conditioning even for 5 minutes, even if you park your car in a shadow with windows open
How to check when your dog needs help
Sometimes it is hard to tell if your dog has a heatstroke and needs help, especially since some syndromes are only visible within 2-3 hours. Let's take a look what could be a disturbing sings (in order of complexity):
Regardless of your experience (unless you are a trained professional), we strongly suggest to call a doctor, better safe than sorry.
- Your dog looks not interested in favorite treat, walks slowly, falling behind you or trying to find a place to lie down and is not willing to continue the walk
- Your dog begins to roll out its tongue and it looks dark or very bright. If the dog has a dark tongue and mouth, you can gently push the lower eyelid of the dog and see the color of the mucous membranes. If they are very red and this is unusual for your dog it is a sign is overheat
- Tongue and mucous membranes darken, the dog begins to breathe faster, lays on its side and refuses to go anywhere, does not eat, but eagerly drinks. Shortness of breath does not go away despite the measures taken to cool the dog. When measuring temperature - it is elevated, but not by much. This requires your immediate attention, you need to help your dog to cool down, using chill drinking water, cooling mats and paying attention to look and feel
- Your dog hardly moves, breathes very often, superficially, so that the whole body shakes. The mucous membranes can be either very dark or very pale. Increased salivation, saliva can literally pour out of the mouth. This means that the dog began to feel sick, can even refuse to drink water. This is serious and you need to act fast to help your dog
- The dog begins to cramp - from weak twitching of the limbs or head to severe muscle spasms. The dog is very scared or semi-conscious. This is really bad and requires immediate professional help, get your dog to doctor asap!
We all love our dogs and summer is a great time to be spent together as long as you are aware of how to recognise the signs of heatstroke and protect your best friend.
Wishing you great summer moments with your dog whatever the weather will be!!!
If you want to learn more about your pet and get useful insights, take a look at this blog "Whydopets.com", which has plenty of topics covered to bump up your knowledge and get to know your pet even better.
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