Ready for a summertime game of catch with your favorite four-legged friend? Not so fast. If you're feeling the heat, you can bet your dog is, too. And for him, overheating can be dangerous. Follow these tips to keep him cool during the dog days of summer.
"Heatstroke is by far the greatest concern," says Andrea Hilden, DVM, a veterinarian with Animal Care Center of Green Valley in Arizona. A Hebrew University study found that 50% of dogs with heatstroke won't survive.
The leading cause of heart failure in dogs is chronic valvular disease. Next is dilated cardiomyopathy, followed by congenital heart disease and heartworms. More infrequent causes include bacterial endocarditis and myocarditis. Coronary artery disease is rare in dogs. It occurs only in dogs with severe hypothyroidism accompanied by extremely high serum cholesterol levels.
Also known as hyperthermia, heatstroke happens when a dog's body temperature rises above the average 102.5 F and can't be controlled by normal cooling processes, like panting. Warning signs include fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, and, at the worst, confusion and seizures. Here's how to keep your dog cool and healthy all summer long (and even get in a few games of outdoor catch).
Follow Fido's lead. "The No. 1 sign that a dog's core temperature is getting too high is fatigue," Hilden says. "If you're out for a hike with your dog on a hot day and he's searching for every shady spot to lie down in, turn around and carry him home." If you’re worried that he’s overheated, you can use a rectal thermometer to check his temperature when you get home, she adds.
Don't let the temperature fool you. Dogs can get too hot in weather as low as 80 degrees. Add in humidity and exercise and it could be a recipe for disaster. "If you can't comfortably sit outside for an extended period of time, then don't let your dog do it, either," Hilden says.
Change your walking time. Dogs still need activity in the summer, but it's best to avoid the hottest parts of the day. "Try going early in the morning or late at night after the sun has set," she says.
Don't give your dog a haircut. You may be tempted to shave your pup's thick hair in an effort to cool him off for the summer, but Hilden says it could do more harm than good. "A dog's coat provides a buffer to help him regulate his body temperature," she says. A trim won’t help him handle the heat.
Don't use ice. If your dog shows signs of heatstroke, wet him down with room temperature water and put him in front of a fan. "Your first instinct might be to pack ice packs around him or cool him off as quickly as possible, but the cold causes his blood vessels to constrict, and when they constrict they can't [get rid of] heat," she says. Call your vet and take your dog in right away for treatment.