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How to keep your dog cool in the summer heat

Created by Joereal30 27/May/2017 07:23:04 (PM)
[img]http://www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/pets/2017/05/08/pitbull-small.jpg[/img]
Heat stress in dogs is a serious issue, and owners need to be aware of the signs of a dog overheating CREDIT: PAVLINA SANBORN / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

The warm, sunny weather of summer is welcomed by most of us, but it isn’t always good news for pets. Heat stress in dogs is a serious issue, and owners need to be aware of the signs of a dog overheating, as well as how to keep their dogs cool and what to do should they become overheated. As a vet in practice, every year I witness dogs dying of heat stroke: when this happens, the grief of the owner at losing their pet is compounded by their realisation that if they had known how to stop a dog overheating, they could have saved their pet’s life. One of the most important summer skills for a pet owner is to know how to keep your dog cool in the summer heat.
Dogs have an inherent susceptibility to heat stroke. A survey of vets found that 48% of vet clinics had to treat dogs for heat stroke during the summer months. Given that this is a preventable problem, the figure is astonishingly high. So what are people doing wrong, and how can they avoid heat stress in dogs?

Dogs deal with excessive environmental heat very differently to humans.

We are able to consciously seek out cooler areas, opening doors and moving to different parts of the house if we feel uncomfortable. In contrast, dogs must stay where they are placed by humans, so if they are in an area that is too hot, they cannot choose to move elsewhere
We can remove items of clothing if we are too hot: dogs are stuck in their fur coats.
We exude sweat from all over our bodies, losing heat from our skin as this fine film of moisture evaporates. Dogs do not sweat in this way.,

In dogs, the heat losing mechanism is primarily by panting . The tongue swells up, filling with warm blood, and air is forced over rapidly over the tongue. The dog pants, with fast, shallow breathing at the natural resonant frequency of the airways. Warm moisture evaporates from the tongue and is exhaled into the environment while the cooled blood returns from the tongue to the body.
There are two main factors that lead to dogs suffering from heat stroke

They are left in warm, enclosed environments which they cannot leave, so that they are unable to lose heat by panting
They do not have enough water to replace the high levels of fluid lost during panting, leading to dehydration and diminished heat losing ability

Cars are still the most likely location for heat stroke in dogs. The enclosed area, with limited air space, surrounded by heat-intensifying glass,creates a dangerous combination of factors. Everyone knows that you must never leave dogs unattended in cars, but even if you are present with dogs, they can still overheat. If travelling with dogs, use air conditioning to keep the car cool. Provide plenty of fresh water, either using a non-spill water bowl or by stopping regularly to offer a drink. When travelling, it’s worth taking regular travel breaks, taking the dog for short walks in the shade to ensure that they are comfortable and healthy.
The second, less well recognised situation that leads to heat stroke in dogs happens when they are taken for vigorous exercise in the heat of the day. Dogs love to exercise, and the vigorous muscle activity involved generates a high amount of heat inside the body. When this is added to the heat entering a dog’s body by radiation from sunshine, the result can be a rapidly increasing core body temperature. Affected dogs may collapse, panting, in the middle of a walk, with the dog flopping down as if exhausted. Typically, the dog will refuse to get up and walk when their owner calls them, and they may even need to be carried back from the walk. Owners are usually unaware that their dog is suffering from overheating, and it’s only when the dog’s temperature is taken at the vet that this becomes apparent. The consequences of this delayed treatment can be life threatening.

brachycephalic dogs (their breathing is already restricted, even without the stress of overheating)
obese dogs (they have an extra layer of insulation in the form of fat)
dogs suffering from laryngeal paralysis (their breathing passages are narrower than normal, making them unable to pant like a normal dog)
dogs with dark coats (solar radiation is absorbed into the body rather than being reflected)

Animals of these types deserve special protection from potentially overheating situations because they are less able to cool themselves down.

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