Heatstroke: Are Your Dogs at Risk?   
by Carol Stack

It is not uncommon to hear about someone who left their dog in a parked car, even for just a few minutes, and came back to find them suffering from heatstroke or already dead.

If temperatures are about 70-80ºF a car can heat up to 100ºF within minutes. If the temperature is 85ºF and the windows are slightly open the temperature inside can reach 102ºF in ten minutes and in 30 minutes it can reach 120ºF.

On hot and humid days the temperature inside a car parked in the sun can increase more than 30ºF each minute. That quickly becomes lethal since at 110ºF a dog is in danger of heatstroke.

The best thing you can do is leave your dog at home when you go out on errands. Even if you don't plan on leaving your dog in the car, there is always the risk that your car's air conditioning will fail and you and your dog end up driving around in an oven on wheels.

Fresh, cool water and shade are the two most important things for a dog that spends a lot of time outdoors. Dogs dehydrate very quickly and their water bowls need to be refilled several times a day with cool, fresh water.

Another thing you can do is provide a little pool for your dog or let him run through the sprinklers. Some dogs love to cool off with the hose. If you provide a pool, be sure to empty it and refill it often to prevent mosquito larvae from growing.

If your dog is left outside during the day, be sure to provide plenty of shade. Even if your yard is shaded naturally it is important to set up some kind of shelter from the heat. Set it up in the shade of a tree, for example, and make sure that the shelter is large enough so that air can pass through it freely.

Your dog's footpads are very sensitive to the heat. Hot pavement can cause severe burns. Avoid walking your dog on hot pavement and cool his paws in cool water when you get home from a walk.

Some dog breeds have more problems in the heat than others. Boston Terriers, Pugs, Boxers and other dogs with pushed up snouts have a tougher time in hot weather than others. They will need extra care to make sure they keep comfortable and safe from the heat.

There are other breeds that just aren't meant to live in areas that reach higher temperatures. These include the St. Bernard, Alaskan Malamute, Huskie, Old English Sheepdog, Newfoundland and any other breed that has a dense, heavy coat.

A visit to the groomer for a nice, short haircut can help these dogs keep comfortable in warmer weather. Other dogs that would feel better with a short summer haircut include dogs with a double coat, such as the Chow and Collie.

If you think your dog has heatstroke, get him or her to the vet immediately. Use cool water, not ice water, to cool your dog. Be careful not to use very cold water as that will cause constriction of the blood vessels and slow down cooling.

Signs of heatstroke include, among other things, a body temperature of 104-110ºF, excessive panting, dark or bright red tongue, seizures, bloody diarrhea or vomiting, coma, and death.

If the dog's temperature is 103ºF or lower, do not aid cooling as some animals can get hypothermic. But if your dog is cooled off and seems okay, do not assume everything is fine.

Internal organs can be negatively affected by a rise in body temperature and blood tests and a vet exam are needed to assess any damage. There is a fatal blood problem called DIC that can result from heatstroke.

To best help your dog handle the heat this summer, keep him at home and NOT in a hot car. Make sure he has a steady supply of cool, fresh water and shade, provide him with air conditioning or a wading pool to keep cool in, decrease his amount of exertion, and exercise him and do any dog training in the cooler times of the day. Following these simple steps will ensure that your dog has a happy, healthy summer.

Copyright 2006 Carol Stack

About the Author: Carol Stack has been working with dogs for more than three decades. She and her daughter, Christy, have created a web site especially for dog lovers,http://www.christysdogportal.com
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