Dr. Dara Johns/Special to the NWF Daily News / USA TODAY NETWORK
We had a nice long winter this year, and it spoiled me into thinking summer would be mild. I could not have been more wrong.
Summer is blazing, and pet owners need to take notice. Living on the coast as we do, our heat is amplified by humidity.
Moist heat is not conducive to cooling off, and our poor dogs feel this more than we do. Dogs do not sweat. They rely on panting to move air over the tongue, rapidly pulling air in and cooling the moist tissues of the mouth. The dog’s respiratory system, including the mouth, tongue, trachea and lungs becomes its air conditioner.
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Anything that impedes that flow of air will cause a dog to be prone to heat stroke. For instance, having a short flat nose and face will reduce air flow, making breeds such as English bulldogs and susceptible pugs.
Airway disease makes a dog more susceptible. Little dogs with Collapsing Trachea that cough and wheeze have a compromised airway. Older Labrador retrievers can develop a condition called Laryngeal Paralysis that blocks air movement in the larynx, causing them to wheeze.
Very old dogs and arthritic dogs are at risk simply because they may walk out in the sunshine to enjoy the warmth, plop down and not get back up again. It only takes a few minutes for the hot sun to cause dangerous rises in a pet’s body temperature.
Heat stroke and treatment
And then there is the tragedy of overheating in the car. Too often people leave their dogs in the car, either by accident or pure ignorance.
A chart originally published in the journal of Pediatrics and reposted on the American Veterinary Medical Association website shows that when the temperature outside is 70 degrees it will take just 30 minutes for the interior temperature of a car to reach over 100 degrees.
When outside temperatures are 85 degrees, the time required to reach over 100 degrees inside a car drops to 10 minutes. We are seeing 85 degrees and higher temperatures every day now that it is summer.
When a dog’s body overheats, the lining of the intestines is damaged, allowing bad bacteria to pass into the bloodstream and cause sepsis. High temperatures for any length of time cause brain damage. Even after the temperature of the body is returned to normal, the brain damage caused by the high temperatures is usually permanent.
There is nothing sadder than getting a pet’s temperature back to normal but watching as the pet exhibits signs of irreversible brain damage such as seizures or coma.
If you do notice your dog panting very heavily, check his gums. If they are pale or purplish, if they feel dry or tacky, it could be heat stroke. If your dog lies down and won’t get up, he may be giving out from heat stroke. In this condition, dogs become unresponsive and won’t walk.
Wet his body down immediately with cool water and get a fan on his face if at all possible. Wet his tongue and paws. Put ice packs on his belly and forehead. Quickly take him to your veterinarian. Time is of the essence.
In the car on the way, blast your air conditioning and hold his face to the vent. Every little thing can help in the effort to cool him down.
But the best thing you can do is not let your pet be a victim. Keep your pets out of this heat!