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Summer in the City: Protect Your Dogs From Heat Stroke

by Borderstan.com June 29, 2012 at 9:00 pm 7 Comments

Borderstan, Dogs, Heat

High summer temperatures can be fatal for dogs. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Tori Tyree.

 This column originally ran May 26, 2011.

It’s almost summertime in D.C. It’s time for barbeques, trips to the beach, and street festivals and many people love to bring their dogs along on their adventures. But, please be aware that there could be some serious summertime dangers for your dog if you aren’t careful!

My biggest pet peeve is seeing dogs out during the hottest part of the day, walking around on hot asphalt or sitting tied up to a café fence. Meanwhile, the owners are eating and drinking with their friends — and not paying attention to the fact that the dog is showing signs of distress.

And believe me, I’ve had a number of conversations with people that really just didn’t know how dangerous it is for a dog to be out in the sun all day — even with water bottles and shade provided!

If dogs cannot expel enough of this heat, their internal body temperature starts to rise. Once the temperature reaches 106 degrees, internal organs start to fail in what is usually an irreversible shutdown of the body.

Short nosed dogs such as Pugs and Bulldogs are the most susceptible to heat stroke since their noses are not long enough to actually cool the air they breathe in. If the temperature is 90 degrees or above, these breeds should be limited to five minutes outside.

Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs

The following signs may indicate heat stroke in a dog:

  • vigorous panting
  • dark red gums
  • dry mucus membranes
  • thick saliva
  • laying down (or unwilling) to get up
  • dizziness
  • collapse
  • increased temperature (104 degrees requires action, 106 is a dire emergency)

Heat Stroke: What to Do

If you suspect Heat Stroke, here is what you need to do for your dog:

  • Move your dog out of the heat immediately.
  • Cool your dog by placing cool wet rags on her body, especially around the pads of feet and head.
  • Do not use ice or very cold water. This can actually cause the blood vessels to constrict and further raise the body temperature.
  • Stop cooling the body at 103 degrees. Over-cooling can cause another host of problems!
  • Offer cool water, but do not force your dog to drink.
  • Visit the vet right away. Even if you don’t see any problems, internal organs may be stressed and the animal needs to be checked out.

Luckily, there are a lot of daylight hours in the summer so you can enjoy time outdoors with your pup in the mornings and evenings. Use common sense, know the warning signs, and trust me — your dog is probably happier to skip that festival and lounge on your couch in the air conditioner anyway!

  • Mike Silverstein

    Thank you for this.

    Also remember that a dog’s pads are heat sensitive. This is evident at the 17th and S Dog Park. On hot, sunny afternoons the dogs generally avoid the artificial surface and prefer to walk, run, and sit on the dirt. The hot surface hurts their pads.

    In our time in Palm Springs, we noted that folks out there often put booties on their dogs’ paws in the summer, so their pads don’t burn on the extremely hot desert sidewalks. They use the same booties that are used in northern climes to protect dogs paws from salt and other chemicals in snowy weather.

    We do our best to keep Katie comfortable in the summer, and I am sure that Lupe, with all her important duties as ad representative, is well cared for, too.

  • BobInDC

    Please don’t drag your dog to summer festivals! Surely you’ve noticed that your dog is miserable, right? Then why do it? Public events are iffy for dogs anyway — too many unknowns and things that can scare them. Use caution, people, and think of your dog. I have often thought of making up cards and handing them to people when I see them dragging their dogs through crowds of people.

  • Mandy

    Tori, Thanks for the great advice. I enjoy your column. I have a question I hope you can address.
    Is it ok to cut a med/long haired dogs coat short for the summer heat?
    I have heard an assortment of answers from, “Yes, it cools them” to “No, their hair is long to keep them cool”

    • Tori

      Hi Mandy-

      Thanks for the question! I am in the “Don’t shave your dog” category. Their hair does in fact act as a thermostat and keeps the body cool. Also, a danger to shaving the hair off is that the skin is now more exposed and dogs can get bad sunburns just like us.
      The only time I will shave a dog is if they have really bad hot spots and chew themselves raw. This alleviates their discomfort and you don’t have to keep an e-collar on them!

      • Mandy

        Thank you Tori. That’s very helpful. I look forward to your GREAT advice going forward on Borderstan.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for posting this reminder. Just yesterday I was driving on 14th Street and saw some dipshit riding very fast on his bike and practically dragging his yellow lab behind him. He didn’t seem to have any awareness that his dog was really struggling to keep up. And that black tarmac must have been hot as hell!

    It also goes without saying that dogs should never be locked up in a car even just for a few minutes in the heat. Even with the windows open or parked in the shade the temps can climb to boiling very quickly and kill a human, let alone an animal with a fur coat on. My dog absolutely lives for rides in the car, but it’s just to dangerous to take him in this weather.

    Please call 911 if you see an animal in distress, either locked in the car or outside without water or shelter.

  • Liz

    Thanks guys!!! xo Liz & Desi


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