Heatstroke in Dogs by Jan Hyams

Dogs do not understand what heat stroke is or how on earth they would have gotten it. This is where we have to step in and be responsible owners. As with our children we need to watch the amount of time and energy spent by our dogs on days that are really hot. Because we are not used to overly hot days in Britain , when we do get them we try to enjoy them as much as we can and automatically assume that our dogs will know what is best for them in this hot weather also. THEY DON’T.

Before leaving the home (or even pottering about in different rooms) we need to think about where our dogs are going to be and where they have access to. They can and do become affected by the heat when they are left for long periods of time in certain rooms (especially rooms that are south facing), we also need to consider conservatories, caravans, kennels or buildings that have little or no air flowing through. Our dogs like to lie in the sun for long periods of time and if it is within the home it is usually through windows, so we should watch out for them as the magnification through windows, patio doors etc will intensify to a greatly!! Some dogs may be chained up and cannot find shade so they need to be moved, so in this and all the circumstances above plenty of fresh drinking water should be made available at all times. Heat stroke can even affect dogs that have long or thick fur that have had extensive exercise in warm humid weather, so if you have a dog like this do keep an eye on them whilst out walking. Try to make sure when you walk your dog, even those with short coats, that you do it either early morning or evening time when it is cooler. Do try not to walk them between 12-3pm at this is when the sun is normally at its hottest. Even when walking either side of these times I always carry a small bottle of water with me (erring on the side of caution), for both myself and my dog.

One of the main areas for concern which we have all read about, as it is greatly covered by the media, are the dogs that are being left in cars on a hot day (even in the shade with the window slightly open)!! Although we read about it every summer of every year it is still happening and dogs are still suffering. I often ask people to think what it would be like to sit in their parked car on a hot day with only an inch or two of open window??? I have tried it myself and it is very unpleasant. Now imagine what that must be like to do this with a fur coat on??? There maybe times when situations arise that are beyond our control were you may have to stop for one reason or another whilst you have your dog with you, if so then try to park in the shade and not leave your dog for more than 5 minutes.

A dog’s normal temperature should be 38-39 Celsius (100-102.5F). and dogs that are getting warm will pant to regulate this temperature so in some situations panting is normal and the dog is not in distress but akin to us sweating. Dogs cannot regulate their temperature against intense heat, so panting becomes fruitless. Their temperature may rise by only a couple of degrees but this can set off the early signs of heatstroke. Temperatures can sometimes rise quite quickly within a car (in 10 minutes) to a temperature as high as 49c (120F) which can then have fatal consequences for your dog.

Signs of Heatstroke:

  • Heavy laboured panting
  • Dry nose and mouth
  • Heavy salivation and foaming at the mouth
  • Both very pale or excessively red gums and tongue
  • Fast heart beat
  • Disorientation.
  • In the extreme stages, extreme lethargy, convulsions and coma.

To Reduce Temperature:
Make sure that the temperature isn’t brought down to quickly.
Pour cool or tepid water onto the skin slowly. Don’t use freezing water and do not throw buckets or bowls of water over the dog.
Place the dog slowly into a paddling pool (making sure the water is not too cold) holding its head above water.
Place the dog onto a soaked towel in a shaded area and putting another over the top of it.
Dribble water gently into the dog’s mouth then allow it to drink but not excessively.
Get your dog to a vet as quickly and calmly as possible.

Does your dog really need to go on the journey with you? Is it REALLY necessary to have him in the car?
Make sure your dog has plenty of room to move around in the car so he isn’t in direct sunlight.
Make sure there is plenty of shade as they can still overheat in an air conditioned car if in direct sunlight.
Leave enough time on your journey to stop for water breaks cooling of periods for them.
Keep their water colder; use a thermos flask instead of a plastic bottle.

Please Don’t:
Leave your dog unattended even with a couple of windows open (this can also attract thieves to your car and your dog) with water in the sun. They must have access to shade and water.
Over exercise or walk your dog in hot sunshine or when the sun is at its hottest no matter how much THEY want to go.

Please don’t pass a dog suffering in a car at a show, store or public car park etc. If you are worried or in any doubt then ask the shop or store to put out a tannoy request to the car owner, call the police, or phone the RSPCA.

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Jan Hyams for the CFBA, the CIDBT, and their students of Dog Behaviour & Training

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