How to recognize sunstroke.
Why and how your dog “cools it” on hot humid days. How to prevent
overheating, heat stress, even sunburned show coats.
Barbara J. Andrews, TheDogPlace Publisher
Dogs are more susceptible to heat stroke
and sunstroke than humans. Dogs can't sweat like people and horses; hard panting is how his thermostat
works to keep vital organs functioning.
On a hot, muggy summer day, you sweat to cool your body. Your dog can
only pant to dissipate heat and when humidity is high, he has to work even harder. Human or canine, the
body’s thermostat uses a lot of energy. A heavy coated dog has to work even harder to keep cool because
he can’t strip down to shorts and a T-shirt.
Do you get grouchy when it's oppressively hot? Just
a little bit peevish? So does your dog. The dog must be sainted because he's less
likely to be short tempered with those he loves than you are after a "bad day" and a long hot drive home from work.
Even so, give him some emotional space on "dog days".
Don't freak out if he digs a cool damp bed in your manicured lawn, especially if he is double
coated and the darker his coat color, the more of the sun's heat it will absorb.
Preventing Sunstroke - and Sunburn
If you are showing, remember that direct summer sun will burn that gorgeous dark coat, turning
it rusty. Avoid oily coat dressings in summer. Hot sun will "fry" his coat.
Drape him with a wet towel while standing ringside.
Build a roof. Provide access to the garage
or utility room, if necessary, install a window air conditioner but do not lock him in! If the power goes
out, your dog will die. Better yet, install a doggy door which allows him access to your cool kitchen floor
and the central air conditioning.
Add a little ice to his fresh water; he'll love it just as much as you look forward to a
cold drink. If he hasn't been wormed since fall, now is the time to make sure both internal and external
parasites are under control.
Shedding? No doubt.
A good bath, regular brushing, and flea control will make his summer a lot easier and avoid vet bills for "skin
problems" and summer doldrums.
Do not wet him down to cool him off. It's a good emergency measure for a dog that is
actually having a heat stroke. Total body wetting with cold water and ice packs will help him make it to
the vet. But otherwise, don't hose him on a hot day because unless he stays out in the sun long enough
to dry completely (and no dog would do that) the dampness trapped next to the skin is likely to erupt into moist eczema otherwise
known as a "hot spot.Do not ever, ever, ever do a mating in the heat of the day. And never give him
a "nice, big cool drink" immediately following any sort of vigorous exercise or a heavy meal, even on a cool day.
Give ice cubes to satisfy his thirst and cool him down.
Change his diet. Don't you naturally cut back on heavy gravies, sauces
and fats during the summer? Sure you do. Your dog would too if he could select his own
food. It's a shame dog food companies haven't come up with a summer diet but until they do, shift
him to one of the lower protein mixes made for older or overweight dogs. Not a cheaper grocery food, but
a lower fat formula. Always avoid corn-based foods but particularly in the summer. Corn
is “hot” food, ask any horseman. Add a bit more rice and veggies. With puppies,
it doesn't matter so much because they are going to burn off the fat and protein, just like small children do.
At Dog Shows
insist on showing at outside summer shows, for goodness sake, have pity on him. Take a big ice chest.
Not for your beverages. For the dog. If you want ice for your drinks, take a
smaller one for yourself. Pack an old bath towel. Keep it in his ice chest.
Wring out the towel and drape it over him for that long wait at ringside. Take a spray bottle of
plain cold water and an ice bucket. If he's heavy coated, put cold packs under his crate pad
or pan. Treat him better than you would your child in severely hot weather because he can't tolerate
heat and humidity as well as your child can! Better yet stay home.
Never leave him unattended. Surely you
would rather mercifully shoot him than torture him to death in a car which you thoughtfully parked in the shade – until
the sun moved and 15 minutes later, your car was an oven. Don't ever leave him in the van or
motor home with the air conditioner running. If the engine becomes overheated and shuts off, your dog can
die in less than twenty minutes.
Only a "few minutes" of ringside chat or goodbyes can kill your best friend.
Despite all the warnings and the presence of professional dog people, one or more show dogs die from heat prostration
Don't let it be yours.