Dehydration, heatstrokes can happen with pets in extremely hot climates
BY TERI WEBSTER
FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM/TNS
Soaring temperatures and the blazing sun can spell trouble for dogs left outside in the heat. And with 100-degree days playing out in some parts of the country, that means it’s time to take extra care to keep your dog comfortable and healthy, experts say.
Mostly, experts say, be smart. Walk your dogs or take them to dog parks during the early morning or late evening hours, when it’s cooler. If the pavement is hot to your touch, it’s probably too hot for your dog’s paws. And never leave them inside a vehicle.
“Dogs left outside must have access to water, food and adequate shelter,” said Whitney Hanson, director of development and communications for the Humane Society of North Texas. “In the summer months, it’s crucial that the shelter includes shade, and if possible, some kind of breeze.”
Dogs don’t sweat
Without adequate shade and water, dogs can experience dehydration or heatstroke, conditions that are life-threatening if left untreated. Other problems associated with warmer weather are parasites, sunburned skin and hot pavement. The good news is that all of these things are preventable.
The bad news is that dogs don’t sweat, which means they can quickly become dehydrated.
“We sweat as humans and dogs don’t,” said Lori Bierbrier, a staff veterinarian with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals national office in New York. “While they’re panting, they’re also losing fluid, and they can become dehydrated, as well.”
High humidity levels also make it more difficult for dogs to cool themselves.
Brachycephalic dogs — those with flat or short snouts, such as pugs, bulldogs and Boston terriers — have an increased risk of heat exhaustion because their nasal passages do not allow an ample flow of air, Bierbrier said.
Besides the temperature, other factors to keep in mind are a dog’s age, tolerance to heat and existing health conditions, Bierbrier said.
What if your dog loves the outdoors, even in the blistering heat?
“You can purchase a baby swimming pool with just a little bit of water in it,” Hanson said. “But it’s not a substitute for having shade. You can take a jug of water and freeze it and leave it in the dog’s shelter area so he can lean up against it and keep cool.”
Similar to people, dogs can get sunburn from too much direct exposure to sunlight. Using sunscreen is a good idea, especially for white-haired or other fair dogs, said Hanson. Be sure to ask your vet for a recommendation on which sunscreen product to use, she added.
No hot cars
Heat-related problems can even happen indoors. Turning off the air-conditioning or keeping it too low can cause a pet to become uncomfortable or overheated.
“Definitely, it can get really hot inside,” Bierbrier said. “Keeping it at a cool temperature is necessary for the safety of the pet. If it gets really hot, it can unfortunately cause trouble.”
Leaving a dog in a car on a hot day is one of the most dangerous things a pet owner can do.
If the temperature is 95 outside, the inside of a car can reach 114 degrees in 10 minutes and 129 degrees in 30 minutes. So the time it takes to go to a grocery store can become very uncomfortable — and in some cases, deadly — for a dog left in a hot car.
It’s safer to just leave pets at home, said Hanson.
“It’s rarely intentional abuse or cruelty,” said Hanson. “It’s really a form of overconfidence. No one thinks it will happen to them. They think they’ll just run into the store for five minutes, and then five minutes turns into 15 minutes. Within that time, the temperature inside the car has skyrocketed, even if the windows are cracked.”
An overheated dog risks going into heatstroke, a condition that could rapidly advance into a life-threatening situation.
For that reason, all dog owners should know the warning signs of heatstroke, said Tim Morton, a veterinarian and assistant director of the city of Fort Worth Animal Care and Control center.
Signs of heatstroke in dogs include excessive panting, appearing disoriented, lethargy, feeling very warm to the touch, nausea, bloody diarrhea and seizures.
“For a pet experiencing heatstroke, there is need for immediate attention from a veterinarian,” said Morton.
On the way to the vet, the dog can be wrapped in cool — not icy — towels so the body can begin cooling.
Vets work to further cool down the pet’s body temperature to prevent the organs from shutting down, Morton said.
Mosquitoes and fleas
Heavy rainfall creates ideal conditions for breeding grounds for mosquitoes and fleas, which pose another danger to pets.
“The mosquitoes are out in full force,” Hanson said. “It only takes one mosquito bite for your dog to get heartworms.”
In the long run, it is much cheaper to give your dog a monthly heartworm preventative medication.
“There is a heartworm treatment, but it is very hard on your dog’s body,” Hanson said. “Left untreated, heartworms are deadly.”
Fleas are another issue. They can cause an infestation not only on your dog, but also in your home.
“Animals that are allergic to fleas can get major skin infections and it’s very uncomfortable for them,” Bierbrier said. “They can also transmit tapeworms. And if the fleas are on your dog, they’re also getting into your carpet and bedding.”