Dog Days of Summer

Check out Dr Hoe’s Article published in the Lake Norman Citizen:

 

The Dog Days of Summer!

Locals and visitors alike have made an art form of surviving the summer heat here in Lake Norman.  Cool drinks by the pool, active days on the lake, and frequent visits to ice cream stands keep our skins tanned and our bodies refreshed.  Often forgotten during the dog days of summer, however, is how dangerous high temperatures can be to the pets who accompany us on the bow of the boat or in the car ride to a cone.

This past weekend the temperature in the Lake Norman Area rose into the mid-nineties with the heat index over 100 degrees! During these long, hot days pet owners need to be vigilant about making sure their four legged loved ones are staying cool.

Unlike humans, dogs and cats are unable to sweat like their human owners. Nor can than grab a frozen Popsicle from the fridge.  Their main method of cooling is via panting.  Panting is very rapid (300 to 400 breaths per minute), shallow breathing that enhances the evaporation of water from the tongue, mouth and upper respiratory tract.  Evaporation dissipates heat as water vapor and therefore cools your pet.  High humidity, a common feature of a Lake Norman summer, can make panting less effective because less moisture is able to evaporate from your pet’s mouth.

Additional factors, such as the shape of a nose, can make some animals more prone to heat related health issues.  Termed “brachycephalic,” breeds such as Pugs, Pekingese, Boston Terriers and English Bull Dogs are more vulnerable to harsh heat.  Brachycephalic dogs have narrower trachea’s compared to other dogs of the same size, limiting the rate at which they pant. They can also have pieces of tissue in the back of their throat (known as “laryngeal saccules”) that can turn inside out and block the airway. Furthermore, they often have very small nostrils that, while extremely cute, do not move air effectively (stenotic nares). Together the combination of tiny tracheas, laryngeal saccades and stenotic nares is known as Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome. While surgery performed by a veterinarian can correct some of these health hazards, the threat of heat exhaustion will always remain.

How then can you keep your pets safe this summer?  Knowledge and prevention.

A dog and cat’s normal body temperature ranges from about 100 to 102.5 degrees.  An increased body temperature caused by environmental conditions is termed hyperthermia or heatstroke.  Any time the body reaches over 105 degrees, it is a true emergency.

Prevention is key, so remember to provide your pet with ample shade and fresh water.  If they do not have access to the indoors offer a small kiddie pool to allow dogs to cool off.  Do not walk or run dogs mid-day, rather exercise in the early morning or evening hours. Be sure to check on your pets multiple times throughout the day and watch for any signs of heat exhaustion.  Never leave a dog in a hot car.

Signs of heat exhaustion, the last step before heat stroke, include a distressed pet, excessive panting, drooling, bright red gums, an inability to get up, and loud, raspy panting. Dogs experiencing full-on heat stroke often vomit, become severely lethargic, or have diarrhea.

If you think your dog is suffering from heat stroke or exhaustion, immediately move them into a cool and shaded environment. When possible, take their temperature rectally with a digital thermometer. Begin to cool your pet by placing cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits, and in the groin region.  You may also wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water.  Directing a fan on these wetted areas will help to speed evaporative cooling. Do not use cold water or ice for cooling.  Ice and cold water can actually cause the superficial blood vessels to shrink and slow down the cooling process. Do not attempt to force your pet to drink water, but have cool fresh water available for them if they show an interest in drinking.

After starting the initial cooling process quickly head to the nearest Veterinarian.

The doctors and staff of Harbor Point Animal Hospital hope everyone, including pets, enjoys these last few hot months on the Lake. Remember prevention is key, so keep your pets safe and out of the heat!