Summer is a fun-filled time for dogs with trips to the park, family outings and lazy days enjoying the sun. However, over-exposure to heat is one of the most life-threatening conditions your pet can develop.
The best approach to heat exhaustion prevention is allowing acclimation to exercise on hot days slowly. Make sure there is access to water and to retreat your pet to an air-conditioned area when signs of overheating first occur.
Signs of summer’s sweltering effects include heavy panting, hyperventilation, weakness, confusion, vomiting or diarrhea, and finally seizures or coma. Cool the animal quickly by applying cool (not cold) water or wrapping the dog in cool, moist towels. Because of the many problems caused by elevated body temperature, one should seek professional help immediately.
If walking your dog, be mindful: asphalt can get very hot during the summer. In fact, it is hot enough to burn dogs’ pads, causing them pain for days. If you have an older or overweight dog, you might want to take only short walks early in the morning or later in the evening when temperatures are lower.
Providing water for your dog is crucial but it is especially critical during hot seasons. If your dog is outside during the day, make sure its water bowl is in a place where he will not tip it over. Make sure there is always a shady place where your pet can get relief from the sun. Kiddie pools are also a good idea!
Grooming all dogs, even dogs with short coats, helps them keep comfortable as the seasons change. A natural coat that has been groomed offers protection from sunburn and acts as cooling insulation. Shaving your dog’s coat or giving it a close cut for summer may require applying sunscreen. This is especially important in dogs with light colored coats.
Remember, even with emergency treatment heat exhaustion can be fatal. The best cure is prevention and your pets are relying on you to keep them out of harm’s way. With ample precaution, both you and your pets should be able to enjoy those long, hot dog-days of summer!
Ginny Bischel, D.V.M.