By Dr. Tracy Dewhirst
Exercising and physical recreation are the best ways to bond with your dog. I strongly encourage dog owners to get their dogs moving, because physical activity helps reduce stress, fights obesity, and improves behavior problems. However, when outside temperatures are warmer, you need to be aware of the limitations the heat places on your dog’s ability to exercise safely and keep your dog cool.
Your dog has many natural ways to avoid overheating, including panting, drinking water, seeking shade, and even standing or rolling in a pool of water. However, your dog’s innate mechanisms to cope with heat can be undermined when your friend is exercised or confined on a hot day. Heat stroke can occur within minutes in certain conditions.
Heat stress is more prevalent in brachycephalic breeds (or dogs with short noses), dogs that have recently been ill, dogs with underlying health problems, or dogs taking certain medications. And obesity is a predisposing factor for heat stroke.
Dogs that are not acclimated to warmer temperatures or physical exertion are more likely to suffer heat stroke. Environmental acclimatization takes about 90 days, so dogs moving to hotter climates need to be closely observed during play and exercise. Dogs starting a new exercise routine during the summer should be given rest periods every 10 minutes.
Plan workouts with your dog in the early morning hours or in the late afternoon when temperatures cool down. Bring along plenty of cold water and a collapsible water bowl suited for serving your dog. Remember that, although your dog’s footpads are thick and durable, they can become burned and sensitive after being exposed to hot surfaces for a long period of time. White dogs are prone to sunburn and skin cancers, so give them a light coat of sunscreen.
Monitor your dog for signs of heat stress, which can lead to heat stroke.
If you’re concerned that your dog is overheating, try these actions:
The actual core body temperature in a heat stroke victim does not directly correlate to the overall outcome, but the amount of time the temperature stays elevated does. If you believe your dog is suffering from a heat stroke, take him to a veterinarian immediately. Do not hesitate: Minutes spared could mean a life spared.
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