The "dog days of summer" are here! We all know too well how heat and humidity can affect our activities during an Arkansas summer. We must also be aware of the changes for our pets. Heat can truly be deadly for animals. Although we can choose to go inside, crank up the A/C, and drink a big glass of sweet tea, our pets depend upon us to notice and provide for their needs.
When temperatures reach above 90 degrees (your pet may be less tolerant than this), we must provide outdoor animals with a cool, shady place to retreat. We must be sure extra water is available, and we must check on them often to be sure they are handling the temperature well. Even indoor dogs must not be exposed to prolonged heat. Letting them out for bathroom trips should be limited to only a few minutes. Certain breeds of dog are even more susceptible to heat, including pugs, bull dogs, and other "flat-nosed" breeds.
When an animal experiences "heat stroke," also known as heat exhaustion, there are numerous changes that occur in the body. Animals are designed to prioritize their vital organs during times of extreme stress. This mechanism is called, "shock," and the body will shut down circulation to the extremities in order to maintain circulation to the organs at the core of the body. During shock, your dog may appear confused or less responsive. He might have pale gums, pant heavily, be unable to stand, etc. Other effects of heat stroke may cause your pet to vomit, have diarrhea, or pass blood in the stool. With such a change in body temperature, dogs may experience seizures, collapse, or other neurologic signs.
A dog's normal body temperature ranges from 100-102.5 degrees. When the temperature is over 102.5, we may determine they have a fever. With heat stroke, we often see temperatures of 105 and higher. A body temperature of 105 is an emergency situation. If you encounter this with your pet, it is important to know what you can do right away to help rescue him/her.
Of course, you want to quickly make your way to a veterinary clinic or hospital, but, you can begin your pet's treatment by taking a moment to:
Take your dog's temperature rectally if possible. This would mean keeping a rectal thermometer at home to use for your pet.
Apply cold, wet wash cloths or towels to their feet and lower legs. This will help to lower the body temperature without cooling the body too quickly. Gentle air from a fan or vehicle air conditioning may be applied. Do not spray the dog with a hose or drench them with water, as lowering the body temperature too quickly is also a danger for your pet.
Offer a drink of cool water. Do not force your pet to drink, but have water available.
Keep the animal as calm as possible. Move him/her gently. Drive safely. Do not increase their level of stress.
We want your dog to experience the fun of summertime activities with you! In all of the festivities, don't forget to provide shade, water, and "cool off" breaks. Avoid heavy exercise, or prolonged time outdoors. Be prepared to help your furry friend quickly if he/she begins to show signs of becoming overheated. Keep your veterinarian clinic's number handy! I hope you continue to have a great summer!