Wow, this summer is a HOT one in Portland! Here at Pawsitive Steps PDX, we're being extra careful about walking your pups on hot days and making sure they don't become overheated. Sometimes, we may need to cut a walk a bit short due to the heat, and finish the visit with some play or cuddle time indoors instead.
For many of us in the PNW who love to hike, camp and go on adventures with our pup pals, the increasing temperatures can definitely pose a problem. That's why we’re sharing tips for keeping your pet safe this summer and how to look for signs of heat stress or stroke.
What is a heat stroke? Heat stroke happens when your dog’s ability to cool herself off becomes overwhelmed by too much heat. It can happen quickly and, if left untreated, it can cause organ damage and death. Keep in mind that dogs cannot sweat like humans can, and their ability to tolerate extreme heat is less than ours!
How to recognize heatstroke. Your pet might become weak, wobbly and faint. In severe cases, your pet can have tremors or seizures. He may have a very rapid heart rate and his gums may appear bright red. If you think you are witnessing any of these signs, you should cool off your pet using our guidelines below and immediately seek emergency veterinary care.
How to treat heatstroke. Move your pet out of the heat and wet your dog’s body with cool (not cold) water, then head IMMEDIATELY to your veterinarian. Most dogs will require IV fluids to treat for shock and support vital organs. Never cool a dog with ice cold water! This will actually make things worse, causing the blood vessels to constrict and keep their core body heat from escaping.
Some breeds are at higher risk. While it can happen to any pet, some breeds are at higher risk. Brachycephalic (flat face) pets such as English Bulldogs and Pugs do not have the cooling mechanism that a longer nose provides. Underlying heart disease, collapsing trachea, laryngeal paralysis and even obesity can also predispose to heat stroke.
How to prevent heatstroke? Avoid walking or exercise outdoors during the hottest parts of the day. Stick to shady areas if you can. Pay attention to your pup and carefully watch for signs of fatigue or overheating. Dogs will often overdo it, even in heat, so we have to be the ones to stop our pup’s activity before it becomes dangerous. Keep plenty of cool water with you when you take your dogs in the heat. And never, ever leave a pet in a car on a warm day!
Protect paws from hot pavement? While heatstroke is the most life-threatening problem caused by the heat, dogs also suffer from blisters and burns on their paw pads from walking on pavement that is too hot. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, when it is 77 degrees outside, pavement reaches 125 degrees… and when the temperatures reach 87 degrees, pavement becomes 143 degrees! (An easy way to check is to place your palm flat on the pavement. If you cannot comfortable hold it there, your pup should not be walking on it.)
When the weather is hot, avoid walking your pup on man-made surfaces and opt instead for grassy areas and dirt trails. If you must walk on pavement (ie, to potty walk in the city) be sure to stay in shady areas, put boots on your dog or apply a pad protection wax to paw pads. Limit time on sidewalks and pavement to a quick potty break.
We’re wishing you a SAFE and happy summer with your pooch pals!
DISCLAIMER: This article is for education only and is not intended as a substitution for professional veterinary advice. ALWAYS seek the help of your veterinarian IMMEDIATELY is your dog is in distress or suffers an injury.