It has been hot, hot, hot this past week here at Hunters Point Kennel. With temperatures nearing 100 in the afternoons and high humidity, temperatures outside can feel like 105-110 degrees. While it is easy for people to retreat to air conditioned buildings, animals aren’t that lucky. Owners need to be aware of the stress that excessive heat can put on dogs, especially long haired breeds such as Pointing Labs.
Heat Stress and Heat Stroke
Heat stress occurs due to high temperatures, extreme humidity, strenuous exercise, or a combination of all those factors. The dog is producing more heat than it is able to get rid of so the core body temperature may rise above the normal range of 101-102.5 degrees. If a high core temperature is maintained for too long it will start to cause permanent damage to the body’s organs. Heat stroke is the more serious form of heat stress when body temperature rises above 106 degrees and is usually accompanied by central nervous system dysfunction. Both conditions require immediate veterinary attention.
Signs of heat stress are fairly obvious and don’t require taking the dog’s temperature. Dogs that are suffering from heat stress will be panting excessively and seem to have a hard time breathing. The dog might also be salivating more than usual and have a rapid heart rate. Some dogs also present with behavioral changes and seem to be oblivious of their surroundings. Muscle weakness is also a common symptom and can lead to collapsing. Symptoms more associated with heat stroke include diarrhea, vomiting, and unconsciousness.
It is important to lower the dogs body temperature after exposure to extreme conditions. This can be accomplished by running cool water from the hose over the dog or placing the dog in a bathtub of cool water. Never use ice or ice cold water to cool down the dog as this will only make the situation worse. If you think that your dog is suffering from heat stress or heat stroke, they need to see your veterinarian as soon as possible, even if it means taking them to the emergency clinic. If you think that they are recovering after home care, it is still important for them to see a veterinarian to make sure that their body temperatures stays normal and that they don’t have any other serious symptoms associated with heat stress. Heat stroke is a more serious condition and the animal will likely have to spend a few days in the hospital for monitoring.
If your dog is normally an indoor dog, make sure to monitor him closely in the hot summer months during outdoor activities. Conditioning the dog by slowly introducing him to warmer weather will help as will limiting exercise to cooler parts of the day such as early morning and after dusk. Always make sure to offer water before, during, and after exercise. Owners with outdoor dogs need to be cautious as well. They should be provided with free access to water and shade at all times. Their outdoor home should also be situated to provide adequate ventilation and they should have a place to get off of hot surfaces such as cement. Providing a place to cool down, such as a plastic kids pool, is also a good idea. Here at Hunters Point Kennel we make use of large fans and provide plenty of shade for our dogs. During hot days we are constantly filling the water bowls and cooling down the dogs with the hose as needed.
It is also helpful to know if your dog is at a higher risk for developing heat stress. Long haired dogs such as our Pointing Labs will have a harder time cooling off than dogs with short hair so it helps to brush all that extra hair out of their coats. Overweight dogs, older dogs, dogs with certain medical conditions, or dogs that are not conditioned to be outside will also have a harder time coping with excessive heat. It is best to consult with your veterinarian about physical limitations of your dog.