Sunday, July 22, 2012

Remember to keep your dog cool in hot temperatures!

Around here right now it HOT! Bleh! And we’ve been seeing heat-stroke dogs at the emergency clinic lately because of it—peeing blood, vomiting blood, and pooing blood. Not a good thing. In fact, it's really awful!  Don’t let this happen to your dog!

Just a reminder that dogs can’t tolerate high temperatures the way humans can (and we can’t always tolerate the heat well either!). Dogs have minimal sweat glands; instead, they pant to help reduce their body temperature, but panting only works so well. Therefore, it’s not a good idea to leave your dog outside for long periods of time in these high temperatures. I only let my dogs out for maybe a half an hour at a time, and never during the hottest time of the day (which is actually later in the afternoon, not mid-day; here’s a good explanation of why). Access to water is more important than usual as well.

Also remember that leaving your dog in the car even for ten minutes at these temperatures is incredibly dangerous. Studies have shown that a car can heat up almost 20 degrees in only ten minutes. And over 40 degrees in half an hour. And cracking a window doesn’t help.

If your dog has been outside for a while (or in a hot car) and is suddenly lethargic, vomiting, has diarrhea, and/or generally looks like crap, it might be suffering from heat stroke, which is incredibly serious and life-threatening. The best thing you can do is hop in your car with the air conditioning blasting and hurry to the closest emergency vet clinic. If you’re very far from a vet clinic, you can also try running cool* water all over your dog—make sure it gets down to the skin and doesn’t just run off the fur.  You’ll still want to get your dog to see a veterinarian as soon as possible, however, because heat stroke damages the cells inside the body and your dog will most likely need to be treated.

* Why cool water and not cold?
A veterinarian that I work with told me that a common misnomer is that you should try to cool off your dog with cold water.  In fact, you should use cool water. 
If you use cold water (ice cold water or ice), the blood vessels under the skin will constrict and get thinner (this is called "vasoconstriction").  This restricts the passage of blood to these surface vessels, thereby keeping more blood and therefore more heat in the core of the dog's body--this is a bad thing for a dog experiencing a heat stroke! 
Cool water will work to reduce the temperature a dog because its not cold enough to cause vasoconstriction, but is a cooler temperature than the dog, so it will be able to carry some of the dog's heat away as it washes over its skin.

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