Here in the Midwest, summer seemed to arrive a little too early. While it’s now past the Fourth of July, it feels like we have received more than our fair share of excessively hot days. The only things we can do are try to stay cool and hope for milder weather.
Humans and some other mammals (other primates, seals, and camels, just to name a few) keep cool by sweating. Sweat glands release water which cools the skin and blood under the skin by means of evaporation. A human working on a dry hot day can lose up to 1/2 a gallon of water each hour. This is why it’s so important for us to keep hydrated on such hot days.
Other animals like sheep and dogs keep cool by panting. Like sweating, panting is another form of theromoregulation. When a dog pants, they are taking short quick breaths through their nose and out their mouths. These quick short breaths cause water to evaporate from the walls of the nasal passages in the cavernous sinus. The evaporated water cools venous blood which in turn, cools the warmer arterial blood heading toward the brain. As a result, the brain temperature may be 5°F–6°F cooler than the rest of the body, which is critical for survival.
When these elegant processes of thermoregulation fail to keep the body from absorbing more heat than it can dissipate, hyperthermia occurs. When hyperthermia occurs for a long period of time, heat stroke may occur. Knowing the signs of heat stroke are very important, as early detection is important for a dogs’ survival.
A hyperthermic dog may be restlessness, whine, bark, and show signs of anxiety or agitation. A dogs panting my fluctuate from excessive to nonexistent and then back again. A hyperthermic dog may also drool excessively, foam at the mouth, or have dry tacky gums.
As heat stroke progresses, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, and lack of muscle coordination may occur.
If your dog is exhibiting any combination of these symptoms contact a veterinarian immediately and get your dog to a cooler environment.
There are some things to keep in mind so that a dog doesn’t have to experience the dangers of hyperthermia. Be aware of the ambient temperature when you let your dog outside for extended periods of time. Tying your dog up outside for a long period of time isn’t recommended, in fact, it can be against the law if you live in Omaha. According to an Omaha ordinance which came into effect October 15th, 2008:
“Dogs can no longer be tied up alone outside for more than 15 minutes. However if there is an adult (19 years or older) outside with the dog, he can be tied up as long as the adult is with him. The dog also needs to be on a long enough tie-out that he can move freely (5 times his body length) and weighs just 1/8 of his bodyweight (no big tow chains). If your dog is tethered it needs to be tethered in a manner to keep it 15 ft. from a public sidewalk. Even if your dog is in a fenced yard or outside kennel the tethering ordinance still applies. If you have a securely fenced yard or fenced run for your dog and it is not tethered, it is ok to leave him outdoors without human supervision for extended periods of time.”
While you are playing outside with your dog, it may not be easy to tell that your dog is too tired or too hot; some dogs will only stop playing when they can no longer go on. If your dog is panting, let them take a break.
Some dogs enjoy wading in a kiddie pool or running through a sprinkler to keep cool. If your dog has to be outside make sure shade is available; or better yet, keep your dogs inside when its excessively hot outside.
If you have to go out and about with your dog, keep in mind that dogs have sensitive foot pads that can get burned when a dog walks across hot asphalt, cement, or sand. Keep your dog out of parked cars, since a car can quickly get much hotter than the outside temperature. Also, offer water to you dog often. While some sources online state that you should let a dog drink as much water as they want, keep in mind that dogs probably aren’t losing at much water as they would through sweating. A dog who drinks too much water too fast can end up throwing up or even have issues with bloat.
If you have further questions about heat stroke and how to keep your dogs cool this summer, contact your veterinarian or check out some of the links below.