By VanEastVet, on Tuesday, July 21st, 2015
Vancouver has been experiencing somewhat of a heatwave these last couple weeks, with temperatures consistently hitting the high 20s and low 30s in the lower mainland, and even approaching 40 degrees in parts of the interior. Prolonged spells in extreme temperatures like these are uncomfortable for all of us, and can sometimes be dangerous. The signs are obvious when we humans are really feeling the heat, but do you know how to tell when the temperature is too much for your dog? Here are some of the warning signs to be aware of:
When a dog is overheating, the first sign is almost always excessive panting. This may be hard to determine in some cases, as all dogs pant in order to cool their bodies, so keep an eye out for more aggressive or extreme panting, and shortness of breath. Also be mindful of excessive drooling, and a rapid heartbeat. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, lead it to a cooler area (and provide it with a fan or open window if possible), make sure it stays hydrated, and monitor its behaviour for any changes.
If the dog can’t cool itself off by panting, and is still exposed to extreme temperatures, it may become dehydrated, and its blood pressure may drop significantly. Warning signs at this stage include gums that are vivid red, or vomiting or diarrhea. You can help your dog cool down by preparing a cool compress, which can be applied between the legs, between the ears, or against the paws. Make sure that the compress is not too cold, and definitely do not use ice, as you don’t want to cool the dog too quickly. If these measures don’t help, take your dog to be seen by a veterinarian right away.
When a dog has had extreme prolonged exposure to the sun and heat, functions of its body will begin to shut down. The gums will have advanced from shade of red to a more extreme blue or purple, which is a sign that the dog is not getting enough oxygen. Your dog may have difficulty walking, or suffer a seizure or collapse altogether. Red patches or bruises may develop on the skin, which may also paradoxically feel cool or cold to the touch: all signs that the heat stroke is advanced. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, immediately get it to the nearest veterinary clinic, wrapped in cool towels, and with the car windows rolled down if you’re driving.
Hopefully your dog never has to suffer a heat stroke, so in order to avoid an unwanted trip to the emergency room, remember these tips:
• When outdoors, stick to the shade if possible, and always have water on hand for you and your pups.
• It is extremely important that you do not leave your dog unattended in a locked car. Heatstroke can come on rapidly under these conditions, and is often fatal.
• Short-nosed breeds may be more susceptible to overheating due to their unique physiology, which can sometimes impede proper panting. If you have a short-nosed breed, exercise caution in hotter temperatures.
• Overweight or obese dogs may also have difficulty panting effectively, which may make them more susceptible to overheating. Consider their condition in the warmer seasons.
Good summertime dog parenting is mostly common sense, so unless your dog has a condition that prevents it from enjoying the warmer temperatures, you should probably have nothing to worry about during playtime. When you’re away from the house try to keep lots of water handy, and don’t stay in the direct sunlight for extended periods. We still have a couple of months of warm weather left in BC, so be sure to enjoy it responsibly, and keep these summertime tips for dogs in mind!