Summer has arrived and as the temperature and humidity continues to rise it affects our energy levels, our activities and our schedules.
I urge you to remember that animals suffer as much as we do in the hot weather and it is important to plan and look at ways we can keep them safe and comfortable for the next few months.
Keeping your dog from overheating is a concern for all dog owners and by understanding how your dogs body temperature is regulated and how he cools down helps us to prevent them from reaching dangerous levels of heat exposure.
Dogs do not sweatlike we do when we are hot. Our body sweats as a cooling mechanism. Dogs keep their temperature regulated through an evaporative cooling system, simply panting.
When a dog’s body temperature increases during hot and/or humidweather they naturally pant more cooling them down. As they breathe in, airtravels through the nasal passage over the moisture and saliva on the tongue. The tongue is cooled and the cool air reaches the lungs and is circulated around the body. The hotter your dog gets his heart and lungs will have to work harder the more rapidly he pants. It is essential to not allow your dog to become overheated especially a great concern for short nosed dog breeds likebull dogs and pugs, in addition to older dogs and overweight dogs.
Important factors to help avoid overheating and heatstroke for your pets
Protectionfrom the elements
Dogs in Oman are far better suited to staying indoors in air conditioning especially in the hot times of the day. Mine love to come in and lay on the cool marble flooring.
However if for any reason you cannot keep your dog inside the house think about building him an enclosure with anair conditioner. It doesn’t have to be expensive, there are plenty of economical ways of doing this, or you can consider converting a garage or aroom for him.
When he is outside during theday he will need a shaded area to rest in, keeping in mind the sun moves during the day, so make sure any shaded area remains shaded throughout the whole day and is well ventilated with a good circulation of fresh air. An electric fan safely positioned can help circulate air. Try placing a bowl full of ice in front or below the fan, this will cool the air coming from the fan.
Another important factor to remember is dogs dig to keep cool, ideally if you can provide an area with ventilation, adequate shade, with access to grass or an area without concrete and plenty of cool fresh water so he can find a way to cool down.
Plenty of Water
Dogs need a constant supply offresh, cool drinking water. Leave a few bowls of water around in case of spillage.
Swimming helps your dog to stay cool, you can purchase very cheaply a shallow children’s paddling pool, just make sure the dog can get in and out easily if unsupervised.
Limit Exerciseto early morning and late evening
Many dogs just don’t know when to slow down and will still run and play in the hot times of the day if allowed to. It is up to us to limit their exposure and exercise during the summer and work on changes to your dogs schedule for exercise and play. Avoiding the hottest times of the day and planning walks and play timee arly morning and late evening. Remember to take along water for your dog tod rink before, during and after walking and avoid hot pavement. The golden ruleis if it is to hot for you to walk on it without shoes it will be to hot for your dog.
Groomingin the summer
Dogs with longer hair and/or double coats orunder coat need to be kept well groomed to keep free of tangles and cool. Removing undercoat helps air to circulate, allowing the skin to breathe and helps to keep him cooler. There are wonderful dematting and tools for removing the undercoat or visit your groomer regularly.
Taking it all off – Dogs don’t need to have their hair completely shaved off during thesummer. Their hair provides insulation from heat and cold and completely shaving them exposes their skin to being sunburned. For my dogs with heavier coats, I shave their stomach and groin area in the summer to keep them cool and remove all their undercoat giving them plenty of air circulation, yet still providing protection from the elements.
Also remember that darker colored dogs, suchas black or dark brown dogs absorb more heat from the sun, and white dogs can be prone to sunburn due to the lack of pigmentation in the their skin so it is wise to take this into account.
Dogs and Cars
It seems like a given, however dogs die every year from being left in cars. Do not leave your dog in a vehicle. Even when windows are down dogs can still overheat and possibly die. Even on mild days the temperature inside a vehicle rises rapidly to dangerous levels,combined with lack of airflow and ventilation it leads to overheating which canbe fatal. Animals in these conditions suffer horribly – please don’t risk it.
Signs of dehydration in a dog include a dry mouth, gums and nose, reduced skin elasticity, and sunken eyes.
If you suspect your dog is dehydrated – offer your dog water in small amounts to prevent vomiting and seek veterinary advice immediately as he may need hydration therapy which includesnot only water but electrolytes.
Dehydration can come on quickly and cause damage to internal organs so always seek veterinary advice.
Signs of Overheating& Heatstroke
Signs may vary, but common signs include:
Heavy panting, difficulty breathing, Weakness, fatigue, Vomiting, Diarreah and Muscle tremors/muscle spasms, confusion, delirium and staggering and collapsing
Dogs can quickly become too hot and reach a point of where their body temperature is too high and they are unable to cool themselves down.
You will need to cool your dogdown to bring the body temperature down and immediate veterinary attention. It is an emergency situation and even if your dog seems to be recovering it is better safe than sorry and have him checked out by your vet.
Cooling your dog down
1. Move the dog into the shade if out in the sun, into a cool area or at least well ventilated place.
2. Offer cool water but don’t force the dog to drink
3. Apply or spray cool wateronto the animal’s fur/skin followed by fanning of the wet fur. Do not use ice-cold water or ice as this can cause his body temperature to drop to quickly and cause greater problems. Or by soaking a towel in water and paddling him down, wet him all over, soakingthe back of his neck and his stomach groin and feet.
4. Keep the dog soaked in water, in the shade with plenty of fresh air and check his temperature every ten minutes if you can, and get him to a vet as soon as possible.
5. When travelling to the vets with an overheated dog, soak towels in cold water and lay or sit your dog on a cold towel. Cool the vehicle down first before you get in it. Allow plenty of air to circulate inside the vehicle on the way to the vets – this aids evaporation. Take cool water with you for your dog to drink.
Changes in your dog’s temperament
Keep your dog cool, calm and relaxed during hot weather. We can become irritable in the hot summer months, so it is no surprise that dogs can feel hot and bothered as well. After activity your dog needs time to relax and cool down, make sure your dog has a cool comfortable place he relax comfortably.
Cats like dogs can also suffer from heat stress. If your cat shows signs of overheating, such as restless behavior as he is trying to find a cool spot, panting, drooling, excessive grooming you should do the same as for a dog, offer water and coolthe cat down by spraying or soaking in cool water and take him to the vet as soon as possible.
Other small animals including rabbits, guinea pigs, birdsetc are also susceptible to heat stress. These animals are often confined incages and hutches and are unable to move away to cooler places. Owners need to move these animals into a cool, shaded and well-ventilated area in hot weather.They also require clean, fresh drinking water at all times.