Canine Heat Stress

Canine Heat Stress

It is very important that you pay attention to your dog in the hot months. I know from experience that dogs being field tested during the summer months occasionally slow down and if you are not aware what is happening, you may cause the dog irreparable harm or even death. One of my friends had that happen to her Springer Spaniel. This dog was an eager retriever that loved to fetch tennis balls. You could throw the tennis ball, as far into the woods as possible and the dog would bring it back within minutes and drop it at your feet. You could literally keep throwing the ball until your arm got tired. If you feinted as if you were throwing the ball into the woods towards east, the dog would charge into the woods while you threw the ball unseen by the dog into the woods towards west. The dog would search and search and even if it took the dog 45 minutes, she would eventually come back with the ball, because she trusted you that the ball was somewhere and she wanted to bring it back. Her owner did a lot of retrieving with the dog, and one summer when the temperatures were about 95 degrees F and the relative humidity at 90%, she took the dog for its normal run and threw balls for the dog and kept doing it until the dog collapsed. The dog got its leg caught on a ground vine, flipped over and never stood up again. The owner thought that the dog had broken her neck and since she couldn’t carry it out of the woods, she came to get Vibeke and me and we brought a spade with us and buried the dog in the woods where she had loved to run. She had clearly died of heat stroke, but we never had the heart to tell our friend the real reason the dog died.

Canine Heat Stress – Prevention

Although any dog may suffer from heat stress, certain dogs are more vulnerable. They include puppies and geriatric dogs. Overweight dogs are especially susceptible because the fat insulation reduces the dog’s ability to radiate heat. Dogs with a history of heat stress are short-nosed breeds like bulldogs and pugs, which normally have difficulty breathing and panting, but as the saying goes: “It can happen to you” – so look out. Dogs with cardiovascular or respiratory disorders may be more easily affected than other breeds. Some basic guidelines:

1. Never leave a dog in a closed automobile, an unventilated garage or other enclosure for any length of time in hot weather.

2. Kennels should have adequate ventilation to provide adequate air circulation in summer months.

3. When dogs are outdoors, some type of shade cover should be provided.

4. Avoid excessive exercise during hot weather.

5. Keep plenty of fresh drinking water available at all times for dogs.

Canine Heat Stress – Treatment

In heat stroke cases, high fever must be reduced rapidly to save the dog’s life and prevent brain damage. Body temperatures of 106 degrees F and above can be tolerated for only a few minutes before irreversible damage occurs to the central nervous system. If heat stroke occurs:

1. Gradually immerse the dog in cool water if possible.

2. Spray it with cold water from a garden hose.

3. Apply ice packs to the head and neck.

4. If you are in the field, bring the dog into the shade and try cooling the inner ear flaps and inner thighs with cold water.

Above all, treat the dog promptly and take it to a veterinarian as soon as possible. A veterinarian must also treat heat exhaustion or heat cramps.