Feeling Hot Hot Hot
There are some precautions to take extra care of during the Summer months. Most are common sense but it’s still worth a run through!
The most obvious is don’t leave your dog in the car. Even on a relatively overcast day the car can heat up very rapidly and in direct sunlight it’s more extreme. You may think you’ll “only be a minute” but it’s easy to become distracted and that can be potentially catastrophic. Every year there are news stories about children and dogs left in hot cars so please don’t let that be you.
More routine is advice around the house and day-to-day activities. The ability of your individual dog to tolerate heat will depend on several factors, body size and composition being one. Larger dogs will warm up more slowly but then lose heat more slowly also. Overweight dogs are effectively wearing a large insulating overcoat that traps the warmth within.
Panting and the evaporation of moisture from the tongue and respiratory tract is one of the most important ways that dogs lose excess heat. Because of this conditions affecting the respiratory system can cause overheating. Respiratory compromise has many guises and there are several types of dog that would be vulnerable:Brachycephalic dogs, which are dogs with a short muzzle;Larger dogs with laryngeal paralysis. This collapsing of the larynx is particularly problematic in these dogs when they get warm, limiting airflow; andDogs with chronic tracheobronchial disease. Dogs are largely diaphragmatic breathers and even a relatively modest increase in visceral fat will increase the effort required to pant enormously.These problems all tend to become progressively worse with age.
We have to think up ways to decrease this heat stress for our pets. In the house this may be placing beds in a cooler part of the house, closing curtains with south facing windows in the day, increasing ventilation by opening windows to encourage a draught.If your dog does seem to be overheating, then evaporation of water can help. Wet towels to lie on, cold tiles, or even soaking their coat and using a fan. Ensure your dog does not lie out for extended periods in the sun, encourage them to lie in the shade and drink plenty of fluid.
Times of walking are important. The lowest temperatures and humidity tend to be at dawn, so an early morning walk is best. Later in the evening is certainly better than the heat at mid-day but it still may be very muggy until well after sunset.
Watch out for hot pavements and other heat absorbent surfaces. I am minded of my first trip to Corfu; it was impossible to walk on the sand barefoot. Just imagine that on hot rough tarmac! Either don’t walk when the ground is so hot, walk on a cooler surface only such as grass or consider some kind of protective boots.Enjoy the summer!
Roland Bulkyn Rackowe
MA VetMB MRCVS
Woodlands Veterinary Clinic