Know the signs of heatstroke and save your dog’s life

We all know summer is the time to sit back and take it easy (if you aren’t doing so, it’s your own durn fault, workaholic). Of course, you want your pooch to partake in the festivities with you, and while I applaud your enthusiasm and your willingness, I ask you to please think about the weather and how it will affect your dog before you set out on a grand adventure (or a trip to the store).

Most people are cognizant about the basics, but I’ll list them here:

Exercise your dog in the early morning or late evening to keep him more comfortable. Not only can he overheat from mere exertion, but pavement gets very hot (and blacktop asphalt scorchingly so) and retains heat for a long time. Fido is a lot closer to the hot surfaces than we are, and his furry body soaks up that heat like a sponge! Not only that, but sensitive foot pads can burn on hot pavement. Carry plenty of cool water and don’t exert him for long periods. Also, don’t depend on him to let you know he’s had enough! Dogs will sometimes go and go until they collapse. As his leader and protector, you may have to make him slow down.

–NEVER leave a dog in a car by himself in the summer! The temperature in a car, even with the windows open, can reach 160 degrees in minutes. Your dog can suffer brain damage, or die, in the time it takes you to get through the checkout line. Most people assume their trip will “only take a second,” but what happens if it takes more? We’ve all had the misfortune of getting behind the “wait-until-the-last-minute-and-write-a-check” person in a line. PLEASE leave your dog at home unless someone is going to wait in the car with him and keep the air conditioner on!

–Shaving a long-haired dog may do more harm than good. A dog’s fur protects it from bugs and dirt and can even act as an insulator to keep heat out. Shaved dogs are more susceptible to sunburn, too! Before you shave, speak with your veterinarian or a professional groomer. It may be OK for some dogs, but don’t assume.

–How about giving your pooch a place to cool off? A child’s wading pool may be just the ticket. Don’t fill it full–just a few inches is fine until you figure out what type of “wader” your dog is. Some dogs like to immerse themselves in the water, while others prefer just getting their feet and faces wet. Of course, some dogs can’t swim, so always supervise “pool time,” and don’t forget to have towels handy for drying off before heading back inside. NOTE: stagnant water invites mosquitoes to breed, so change the water every few days or cover the pool when not in use.

Watch for signs of heatstroke:

  • excessive panting
  • glazed eyes
  • immobility
  • unresponsiveness
  • tongue hanging way out of the mouth with a “spatulate” end
  • vomiting

    and immerse the victim in cool (not cold) water to lower body temperature. If immersion is not possible, spray cool water on the dog’s inguinal area and pads of the feet, and soak towels in cool water and drape them over the head and around the belly.

    Get the dog to a vet as soon as possible; heatstroke can cause brain damage and death.

STAY SAFE and cool this summer!