Pet-Wise: The Sun is Not So Fun… for Your Dog

by July 5, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

Pet-Wise photo for July 5

This sponsored column is written by Bonny King-Taylor, director of training and communication at Saving Grace Petcare. Visit and let us know how we can support you.

You hear it all the time, “It’s not the heat…it’s the humidity” when our neighbors complain about D.C. summers.

For our furry friends, the discomforts and dangers of summer weather go much further. It’s the heat, the humidity, direct sun, the air pressure, the asphalt, the sidewalks, hot metal, pests, parasites and pretty much everything associated with what we consider fun in the sun.

The truth is, your pet’s cooling system is notoriously poorly designed. Even short-haired dogs and cats suffer outdoors.

For instance, people tend to think of paw pads as equivalent to shoe leather. In one way, that thought makes sense because critters don’t wear shoes, right? However, it does not take into account that fact that paw pads contain hundreds of veins, very close to the surface of the skin. These veins carry blood and fluids from the heated ground, directly to the heart. And, since dogs perspire only through the tongue and between the paw pads, that heated fluid doesn’t get much chance to cool down before causing the entire body to heat up quickly.

Heat stroke can result, so the #1 rule is: If the street is too hot for YOU to walk on without shoes, your dog should not either!

Always provide plenty of water and shade and consider leaving your pets indoors while you are running errands or eating in an outdoor café.

If you do have to take your dog with you, please NEVER leave him or her in the car. Not even for a minute with the window cracked. A car is a magnified oven and your dog simply cannot defend against the heat.

You might consider a portable cooling pad.

While out, be on the lookout for these symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Increased heart rate (Normal=puppy/120-160, 30lbs or less/100-140, 30lbs or more/60-100)
  • Excessive panting (Normal is 10-30 breaths per minute up to 200 pants per minute)
  • Increased and/or thick drool
  • Bright red tongue & gums or very pale gums
  • Depression, lethargy, weakness, or disorientation (stumbling)
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea (sometimes with blood)

As heatstroke progresses, it can cause seizures, coma, cardiac arrest, and death.

As soon as you see the signs of heatstroke:

Remove the dog from the hot area immediately. Once in a cool place, lower his temperature by placing wet towels over the back of the neck, under the forelimbs, and in the groin area. If possible, increase air movement around him with a fan. (Do NOT apply water in humidity.)

Be careful to use room temperature water. Cooling too quickly and especially allowing his body temperature to become lower than 103° (normal is 100° to 102°) can put the dog into shock or worse.

Transport the dog to his veterinarian as soon as possible. Even if the dog appears to be recovering, he should still be examined for dehydration or other complications.

Resist the temptation to force water into the dog’s mouth. This could cause aspiration and/or choking. Allow free access to water if the dog wants to drink on his own.

Prevention is key

  • Keep pets with predisposing conditions like heart disease, obesity, older age, or breathing problems cool and in the shade. Even normal activity for these pets can be harmful.
  • Breeds with short brachial systems: Pug, Bulldog, Pekinese, Boxer, Shih Tzu, Chihuahua should be kept out of heat a much as possible.
  • Do NOT wet dogs down in high humidity. The excess water will heat up, making things worse!
  • Walk in the shade and on grass as much as possible.
  • When the temperature is over 90° or 80% humidity, reduce the time outside to no more than 15 minutes.
  • When returning home, guide the dog to a cool area of the house.
  • Take care of yourself! You are your dogs’ best defense. Hydrate, shade yourself, strategize and be alert

Finding a great pet-life balance when you are busy with work, family and social obligations can be tough. Busy people need all the help they can get and Saving Grace Petcare is here to help you navigate the urban, professional environment across the 20002 and 20003 zip codes.

We’ve learned a thing or two during our 16 years of caring for thousands of every kind of pet you can imagine. In Pet-Wise each week, we will share tips, tricks, behavioral and product recommendations, book reviews and sweet stories about life with pets in the Capitol Hill, Hill East, NoMa and Brookland neighborhoods.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hill Now.


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