The NOAA recently announced the findings of an international study that determined 2014 to be the warmest year on record, and one can scarcely pass a day without hearing of a pet dying of heatstroke inside a hot car. Tennessee recently passed a controversial piece of legislation granting legal permission for passersby to forcefully enter vehicles to remove overheating pets. Even if not locked inside a hot vehicle, working dogs like Titus, the K9 officer who died of heat-related illness in the line of duty this week, are particularly susceptible to heatstroke and other complications. There are several ways you can protect your dogs from extreme summer heat.
Recognize the Signs
Hyperthermia presents in both cats and dogs with panting, excessive drooling, muscle tremors, and frequent production of only small amounts of urine. More progressed symptoms include bloody and tarry stools, seizures, and unconsciousness. Keep an eye out for early signs of these problems and get your pet to an emergency veterinary service as soon as possible and provide fresh, cool water if possible.
Know the Risk Factors
Elderly and chronically ill dogs are at higher risk for hyperthermia, as are very young puppies. Obesity, hyperthyroidism, and dehydration also put dogs at higher risk. Breed-specific characteristics like brachycephaly (short snout with flat faces) and thick coats inhibit the dog’s ability to cool itself, so be especially attentive if your dog fits this description.
Know What to Do
Early interventions can be critical to saving your dog’s life. Quickly identify the source of potential overexposure to heat and remove your dog from it immediately; if your dog is enclosed in a small hot room or has been playing outside too long, move him to a cooler place and provide plenty of fresh, cold water. If possible, immerse your dog in cool (not cold) water or wrap with cool towels to dissipate heat. Avoid ice water as the sudden constriction of blood vessels that results in an inability to dissipate heat and invokes shivering which raises the body temperature.
Get Your Dog Examined
Even if you succeed in lowering your dog’s body temperature to a safe degree, have her examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure she is free of any heat-induced internal organ damage. If you go to an emergency clinic or a vet who does not know your dog’s medical history, be sure to inform them of any existing medical conditions your dog may have so they may determine if the extreme heat has affected these issues.
As always, remember it is critically important not to leave your dog inside a vehicle even for a moment, especially in the summer. Even on a relatively mild day of 85 degrees, the temperature inside your car can skyrocket in just a few minutes. If you see a dog inside a hot vehicle, contact your local emergency service as soon as possible and stay at the car until help arrives. Stay safe and have fun with your pup this summer!