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summer heat can be dangerous for dogs

by robin brennen

the dog days of summer can be hazardous to your dog. be a cool owner and help your canine companion beat the heat this summer.

humans have hundreds of sweat glands which help us cool by releasing moisture that evaporates on the skin's surface. dogs have only a few sweat glands, all of which are located in the pads of their feet. they cool themselves primarily by the process of panting and breathing, with the moist lining of their lungs, tongue and windpipe serving as the evaporative surface. they also dissipate heat by dilating blood vessels in the face and ears. dilating blood vessels helps cool the dog's blood by causing it to flow closer to the surface of the skin.

minimizing your dog's exposure to extreme temperatures can prevent life-threatening conditions like hyperthermia or heat stroke. dogs with thick coats or short muzzles, or that are overweight or suffer heart problems, are at higher risk for heat stroke. symptoms include hard and harsh panting, deep red gums, drooling, sluggishness, vomiting and diarrhea. body temperatures over 105 or 106-degrees fahrenheit can quickly lead to organ failure and death. these temperatures can be reached even with moderate heat and exercise.

never leave your dog unattended in a parked car, not even for a minute. temperatures inside a vehicle with the windows rolled up can easily reach 160 degrees in a matter of minutes. just five minutes inside can lead to death. consider leaving your dog at home when you run errands on a hot day.

i see many dogs being walked in public places wearing canvas muzzles, presumably because they don't get along well with other dogs or people. while you may be trying to prevent a bite, you are also preventing your dog from panting and cooling off. basket muzzles are a much better alternative, as it allows your dog to pant freely, but also adds the layer of protection you are looking for.

if you enjoy exercising with your dog, do so at the coolest part of the day. noon time jogs are not a good idea.

if you think your pet may be experiencing heat stroke, take immediate steps to cool them down, and then seek veterinary attention. this usually entails hosing off with cool water or submerging in a tepid bath. it may not be enough to just bring them into air conditioning. ice packs applied to the armpit and groin can help. once at your vet's, further cooling procedures can be done. some of the consequences of prolonged, extreme elevations in body temperature can cause the irreversible process of multi-organ system failure leading to death.

on hot days, the coolest thing to do may be to leave fido at home.


robin brennen is the chief of veterinary services at bideawee on the east side.

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