Understanding and Caring for your dog in hot weather – Part 1

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As the mercury rises this summer keeping your dog cool is vital.  Dogs can have the same troubles that we do — dehydration, overheating, sunburn.

 Heat Stroke in dogs is a life-threatening condition with warning signs including panting excessively, moving sluggishly, acting woozy, and losing consciousness. If you observe any of these signs, call your veterinarian immediately.

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While all dogs are affected by heat, for some breads its worse – Brachycephalic dogs

Dogs with “flat faced” nose and head structure are technically called “brachycephalic”, feel the effects of warm surroundings and exertion sooner than dogs with more typical nose and head structure. Brachycephalic dogs include: British bulldogs, French bulldogs, pugs, shih-tzus, pekingnese, and boston terriers amongst others.

 Dogs with medical problems that result in an inability to breathe well, are also more prone to be affected by heat.  These dogs include:

  • Dogs with laryngeal paralysis (an abnormality of their voice box cartilage)
  • Dogs that have had heat stroke before
  • Dark coated dogs
  • Obese dogs (as the fat insulates them)

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How dogs cool off

While sweat glands are designed to aid with cooling us humans, heat release does not occur in dogs in the same way. Dogs lack the normal, predominant sweat glands that humans and other species have.

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 Dogs do have a small amount of sweat glands (which are prominently in the paw pads), their primary source of getting rid of heat is by panting. Vasodilation (i.e., dilating of blood vessels [which can cause a flushing appearance on the skin]) is another method. Lastly, they are capable of sweating a little via their paw pads.

Panting is the primary method, while vasodilation is likely the second most important. Vasodilation helps bring hot blood directly to the surface of the skin, allowing for the blood to cool before returning back to the heart.

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How you can keep your dog safe from the heat this summer:

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Provide constant access to Water

Keep a filled water bowl near your dog at all times. While this may be obvious, it is an especially important step and worth stressing.  If your dog finishes the bowl quickly, get a bigger bowl or get a few bowls.

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When its hot dogs often like to eat ice cubes and may even lie on them if you leave them out.  However, if your dog is showing signs of heat stroke – extreme temperature changes can injure your dog and could cause your dog to go into shock.

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Your dog will thank you for freeze frozen treats like freezing low-salt beef or chicken broth or other tasty liquids in an ice-cube tray – yummy and cool.

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Give your dog somewhere to get wet. Set up a small child’s wading pool or similar container of water for your dog to jump into and keep cool in the yard.  For my dogs if they’re not lying in their pool on a hot day, they’re likely to be splashing it everywhere.  They just love to place their paws in the water and splash their underbelly with the water, they do this if we leave a bucket of water out also.  Many dogs also like to run under the sprinkler, my dogs love to chase the water.

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WARNING – be certain any pool you provide is not so deep that your dog could drown. The dog should be able to stand on the bottom of the pool with their head above the water.

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