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Hot Weather Hazards

July 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Dog Health and Nutrition

Summer is in full swing, and it’s only going to get hotter from now on.  Are you aware of the dangers that can beset your dog due to the heat?

The very first thing you must remember is that dogs cannot sweat.  The human body produces sweat to cool the body.  Just as you are cooler when you step out of the shower soaking wet, the sweat your body produces helps to keep you from getting overheated.  However, dogs don’t have this capability.  The primary way in which they can cool off is by panting, but that is not very efficient.  Dogs like Pugs who have very flat faces are especially susceptible to heat problems because their flat faces don’t leave much room to circulate air over the tongue.

Dog under umbrella on the beach

The problem with dogs in summer

Dogs experience the same heat-related problems as people.  They may become sunburned if they don’t have a lot of fur, they can become dehydrated, and they can get heat stroke, even if they are in great physical health.  Dogs who aren’t in great health to begin with are likely not only to react to the heat more quickly than than other dogs, but also to have a more severe, possibly deadly, reaction.  Elderly dogs, those who are significantly overweight, and dogs who have cardiovascular problems should be kept in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible.

Dr. Lila Miller of the ASPCA gives this description of the overheated pet:

Symptoms of  overheating in pets include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse. They can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit along with an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees.

Dogs in cars

Do I even need to say this?  Never, never, never, never, never leave a dog in a parked car in the summer!  The temperature inside a parked car rises extremely quickly, even with the windows cracked.  Have you ever gone to pick someone up from an appointment during the summer months and had to wait a few minutes.  Even if you open the windows or doors all the way to let a breeze  in, you will quickly wish the person for whom you are waiting would hurry up already.

With your dog’s limited self-cooling ability, the heat can overtake him or her very quickly and can cause death in a very short time.  If you have absolutely no other alternatives to leaving your dog in the car, leave the engine running and the air conditioner on.  Open your hood to keep the motor from overheating.  If the car won’t run or you don’t have enough gas, then take the dog with you.  Leaving a dog in a car without air conditioning is simply not an option.

To shave or not to shave?

A dog’s fur coat may actually help your dog stay cool.  Air can circulate between the individual hairs, helping to keep the dog cool.  However, if your dog has a very long or heavy coat, you may want to clip the hair somewhat to help with cooling.  Make sure to leave at least one inch of fur to protect the skin from sunburn.

Other hot weather hazards

Remember when you were a kid and walked around barefoot all the time.  It didn’t take too long to learn that concrete was okay, but when you got to the black asphalt, you walked in the grass.  Your dog’s feet are also sensitive to the hot asphalt, so if you stop to chat while you are walking your dog, pay attention to where you are standing.  Your shoes will protect your own feet, but make sure you’re not standing your dog on scorching blacktop for very long.  Dogs who are low to the ground may also get overheated by the heat rising up off the blacktop as well.

In the summertime, we all want our yards and gardens to look good, but be careful of the pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals you use outside where your dog can get into them.  Choose pet-friendly brands or keep your dog inside between the time you apply the chemical and whenever it is absorbed.  Don’t forget that the citronella used to keep mosquitoes away is not good for dogs.  Don’t let them eat the candles!

Cocoa mulch might look great on your flowerbed, but it contains the same compounds that make chocolate a problem for dogs.  Don’t put cocoa mulch in areas where your dog might eat it.

If you take your dog with you to barbecues in the summer, make sure everyone knows whether or not your dog can eat people food.  If you do feed your dog from the table, keep in mind that many foods such as grapes, raisins, garlic, and onions are not good for him or her.

Do yourself and your dog a favor:  leave the dog at home when you go to the fireworks display.  Those loud noises can be terrifying, and your dog really will not enjoy the show.

Choosing a dog for a hot climate?

If you haven’t yet selected a dog for your family and if your home is in a hot climate, give some thought to which dogs will do well with the heat.  Obviously, dogs bred to work as sled dogs won’t be a good choice.  Huskies and Malamutes, for example just aren’t built to stand the heat.

Small dogs typically do better than large dogs, and dogs with lightweight coats have an easier time than those with heavy coats.  Dogs with short, pushed-in snouts will have to be kept inside most of the time if you live in a particularly warm climate.

This article from Associated Content tells you about a few of the dog breeds built to withstand the heat.

Strategies to help your dog beat the heat

In order to prevent your dog from getting overheated, make sure to provide shade when he is outside.  Whether you use a tent canopy, trees and shrubs, a picnic table, or a covered porch, your dog needs a place to relax out of the full sun.  You might put ice cubes in the water dish to provide a cool treat. Make sure the water dish is always full, and provide fresh water often.  Your dog doesn’t want to drink dirty water any more than you do.

Children’s pools are a great way to allow your dog to beat the heat, but some dogs should never be allowed to swim without supervision.  Large-boned dogs and those with large heads aren’t built for water.

For more information on hot weather hazards, check out the American Dog Trainer’s Network’s Hot Weather Safety Tips for Dogs.

Comments

2 Responses to “Hot Weather Hazards”
  1. bunbich says:

    I would like to exchange links with your site http://www.straight-poop.com
    Is this possible?

  2. karae says:

    well I have heat on in my house and my dog tends to only poop in the house and not outside .I don’t know ,made its to cold outside for her to do it or she just like to do it in a house

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