Summer heat and your dog
Summer is here and here in full force! Here in south Florida, this is something we always have to keep in mind as the temperatures can easily climb into the mid 90’s. That’s why it’s very important to consider how the heat affects our dogs.
We have several local parks here where you can find ‘dog park‘ inside the larger park. Those are fenced-off facility designed to let your dog run around to his heart’s content. With water fountains available for both small and large dogs, those are very popular and great way for your dog to socialize with other dogs. For those who regularly take their dog to any of our local parks here in West Palm Beach, you would notice something off with your dog more easily. But it can happen nevertheless. More often, this happens when the dog owner gets carried away while jogging and the dog tries to keep up. It can also happen in your own backyard with children playing with the dog. There should always be an adult close by to supervise outdoor activities especially during the hot summer months. Always provide water for your dog outside and a shady place to cool off as well. Keep in mind that dogs do not perspire as humans do to cool off. The only way for them for regulate their body temperatures is through panting. Although most dogs can sustain intense physical exertion over a prolonged period of time, they will need to be watched more closely whenever temperatures get very warm. The humidity here in south Florida only makes things worse for us as well as our pets.
The normal body temperature for dogs is 101 degrees. At above 106 degrees, dogs can overheat and collapse from heat stroke within minutes. Some breeds of dogs are more prone to overheating than others. Because of their short face and compact muzzle, they are unable to pant sufficiently as with regular snouted dogs. These brachycephalic dogs can become overheated very easily even without being exposed to warm weather. Just playing around or being very excited can cause problems. For this reason, their owners will do well to be aware of this condition and really monitor their dogs closely. Typically, these breeds do not handle either the warm or cold weather. They require several breaks during playtime or exercise and lots of water. Brachycephalic dogs breeds are popular with families with young children and they make good companion dogs. And yes they have cute faces. The Boston Terrier, Boxer and Pug for example would fit this category. Dogs that have double coats also need to be watched carefully for signs of overheating. The sled type dogs that are bred specifically for our northern climate like the Alaskan Malamutes or Akitas will be very uncomfortable in our heat. And for all the mixed breed dog owners out there, you can still get an idea of which category they would fall under by their characteristics.
Also to consider are puppies and older dogs with medical conditions. Those are to be observed even more closely as they can feel the effects of the heat more readily and require more attention. First of all, your dog will not always let you know when he needs water. Something is wrong if he is panting heavily and totally refuses to make another step. However it’s up to you to know and be aware of any signs of overheating. You are responsible for his safety and well being.
Now for our southern climate, there area several breeds that will do very well outdoors, mostly the types with very short coat. The Whippet (Italian greyhound) the Greyhound, the Doberman Pinscher, most Terriers, the Beagle, the Basset Hound and my favorite the Rhodesian Ridgeback all can handle the heat. Most of the retrievers also do very well and those include the all popular Labrador and Golden Retriever. As long as you provide ample water for your dog, that’s really what matters. Several breeds are known for their love of the water, so another sure way to cool off during very hot summer heat is to jump into the pool. Even a small kid size pool will make a big difference. However always keep in mind that we do have alligators present around our lakes so be aware and read the signs posted.
Another matter of concern is to always remember never to leave your dog alone in your vehicle when the temperatures are high. Every year we hear of countless stories of children and pets left in cars sometimes with tragic consequences. So please be attentive this summer.
Here are the signs of overheating and heat stroke in dogs:
Rapid heart rate
No panting at all
If you see your dog in distress, take action immediately. Cool him off right away. Put him in a shady area and give him some water. The fastest way is to use your garden hose and hose him down right away especially the dog’s head. You can put the dog in a bathtub with cool water. If you are not close to home, think fast and get help. Have others around you assist you if necessary and call your veterinarian to let him know what you have done so far and to see if there’s anything else you can do. Always carry a cell phone with you at the park and keep your vet’s phone number handy.
Really the best thing is to know your own dog. Try to take your dog during early morning hours or late afternoon for his walk at the park, keep an eye on how long you are there whether walking or jogging. It’s really best to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day and enjoy the comfort of air conditioning.
Just a few minutes of distraction can be enough for something to happen. Always keep an eye on what’s going on around you. So this summer, let’s all be watchful and attentive wherever we go and whatever we do so that we can all have a great and safe summer with our dogs.