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It’s Heating Up Out There!

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It takes only six minutes for a dog to die in a hot car. Yet, people continue to leave their dogs in cars. Maybe this is because humans don’t really understand what happens when a dog is overheated. Normal canine temperature is from 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Heatstroke starts at temperatures of 106-109, resulting in thermal injury to body tissues. Only 50% of dogs survive a heatstroke! Some breeds are more susceptible than others. For example; large dogs, dogs with short faces such as boxers and bulldogs, overweight or long coated dogs are most a risk – but every dog has potential to suffer from heatstroke. It doesn’t even have to be summer heat for this to happen – the temps inside our cars can easily increase to 30-40 degrees hotter within an hour.
When a dog starts to overheat, it will pant to lose heat through the nose and mouth and may also lick its body to cool it by evaporation. Unlike humans, dogs can’t sweat, they are confines to just the nose and pads of the feet. Panting isn’t terribly efficient in hot weather. As it gets hotter, bodily functions start to break down. They enter a vicious downward spiral where the heart starts to fail and pushes out less blood – which means heat cannot be carried away – blood pressure drops, blood pools in the organs and the body goes into shock. It is important to be able to recognize the signs of overheating in your furry friend.
Here are some of the signs to watch for:
– Heavy panting and rapid breathing
– Elevated body temperature
– Excessive thirst
– Weakness, collapsing, staggering, stumbling
– Glazed eyes
– Increased pulse and heartbeat
– Vomiting, bloody diarrhea
– Seizures
– Bright or dark red tongue, gums
– Excessive drooling
– Unconsciousness

Let’s say you did leave your dog in the car, intending to just run in to the store for one thing. The lines were long, you saw a few more things you needed, you ran into someone and chatted for a minute. You come back to the car and your dog is on its side, unresponsive and breathing heavily. Their gums are purple, eyes rolled back and their body is hot as an oven. What do you do???
First and foremost, do NOT apply ice. This will change the body temp too fast and can cause more issues. You should apply tepid water, turn on the A/C and get to the closest emergency veterinarian office. You may also apply rubbing alcohol to the foot pads, inner ears and belly to help increase heat expulsion.
We should all take caution and follow these tips for keeping our pets safe in the heat.
1. Never leave your pet alone in a parked car on a hot day. Leaving the windows cracked doesn’t drop the temperature inside the car. And leaving your car running with the a/c on is just dangerous on many levels.
2. Exercise your dog during the coolest times of the days. In most places, this means early mornings or later int he evenings. Try to stay in the shade and keep sessions shorter during daylight.
3. Provide plenty of fresh drinking water all the time. A good guideline is that a healthy dog should drink between 1/2 to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. If your pup will be outdoors for a longer length of time, encourage them to play in the sprinkler, stay in the shade or use the hose to cool them down.
We have had a long winter and most of us are looking forward to sunshine, warm days and getting outdoors. All these activities are better spent with our loved furries. Just be sure to know how important it is to keep them safe during this fun in the sun season.

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