Your dog and heat stroke

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Summer is a great time to have fun with your dog. The longer days and warmer temperatures have us out and about, and it’s only natural to want to include our dogs. The warmer temperatures present dangers for our pups though, and it’s important to be aware of them.
Allowing your dog to go along with you when you run errands can be fatal to him. Every year, many dogs die of heat stroke as a result of being left in hot cars.  Heat inside a parked car can build up quickly to as much as 40 degrees above the outside temperature. For instance, on an 80 degree day, temperatures in a parked car can reach 120 degrees in as little as ten minutes, especially if the car is in the sun. Even on what many of us would classify as a relatively cool, 70 degree day, a car parked in the sun can quickly heat up to over 110 degree.  Parking in the shade may slow the buildup, but the temperature can still rise quickly, and leaving the windows cracked doesn’t help much, especially if there’s no breeze.  Humidity adds to the problem.  A “quick” stop at the grocery store often turns into longer than you expected as you wait in line, and you may come out to find your dog dead.
On hot or even warm days, you should leave your dog at home.  This is also a time to be proactive.  If you see a dog locked in a car on a hot day, don’t drive away shaking your head.  Go into the store and have the owner paged, or call the police.  They have the authority to break into the car if the animal is in distress.  Don’t just assume the dog will be ok, because he is in danger.
Another summertime danger is hot concrete, asphalt and metal.  People sometimes assume that a dog’s feet are tough and can withstand the heat, but that simply isn’t true.  With the air temperature at 77 degree, asphalt has been measured at 125 degree. At 86 degree it’s been measured at 135. At 125 degrees, skin damage can occur within 60 seconds. At 131 degrees, an egg will cook. Dogs forced to walk on hot sidewalks and streets can quickly burn their pads, even if the burns are not evident to your eyes. Signs of injured pads include imping or refusing to walk, licking or chewing at the feet, pads darker in color than normal, part of the pad missing, and blisters or redness.  A good way to test to see if a surface is too hot for your dog’s feet is to place the back of your hand against it and hold it for seven seconds.  If it is uncomfortably hot on your hand, it’s too hot for your dog.  Also remember that if your dog has been in water for very long, his pads may soften and be prone to burning more quickly than normal.
The humidity can also be dangerous to dogs.  Our pups don’t sweat the way we do.  Instead, they cool off by panting.  Panting causes moisture to evaporate from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves, and their temperature can quickly rise.
A dog’s normal body temperature is between 101-102 degrees. If his temperature reaches 106 degrees, he is in danger. High temperatures cause chemical reactions that break down body cells, leading to dehydration and blood thickening. This puts extreme strain on the heart and causes blood clotting and tissue death. The liver, brain and intestinal cells are usually the first to be affected and this can occur quickly. Brain damage, vital organ failure and death can happen much faster than you would expect.
The symptoms of heat stroke include rapid, frantic panting; wide eyes; thick saliva; a bright red tongue; trembling; staggering; vomiting; diarrhea and coma.  Heat stroke is a deadly emergency, and fast action on your part is critical for his survival.  Cool the dog off quickly!  You can hose him off, after insuring the hose water is not hot;  immerse him in cool but not cold water; sponge the groin, stomach and paws with cold water; or place cold, wet, rolled up towels against his head, neck, stomach, and between his legs. It’s also critical that you get him to a veterinarian immediately, preferably in an air conditioned vehicle.
Enjoy summertime activities with your best buddy, but remember that he’s counting on you to keep him safe.  Take precautions, and have fun in the sun!
Karlene Turkington is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.

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