Pet Heat Stress
Penelope (Penny) is SCM’s office pet. She’s a five-year-old English Bulldog. Her snoring can often be heard in the background on conference calls. She scouts our training classes for any food that may have dropped on the floor. Her antics keep all of us at the SCM office laughing. And she is, like pets for many people, our best friend.
Penny is a brachycephalic dog, meaning she has a flat face, like French Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekinese, Boxers, and some cats, like Himalayan or Persian breeds. While many pets are susceptible to the summer heat and heat-related illnesses, flat-faced pets are particularly at risk. They can have heat-related problems because, unlike humans, who perspire to cool down from the heat, they don’t sweat. Instead, they pant; their enlarged tongue and heavy breathing are a cooling method. Unfortunately, heavy breathing can cause other medical issues to get worse, such as the pre-existing respiratory conditions of many brachycephalic pets. Like heat stroke. which can be fatal for humans, heat related issues can be just as serious for our pets.
Last summer, when temperatures were in the upper 90’s, Penny had a heat-related problem. She tried to play and run. Her tongue became very large. Usually, a bowl of cool water with ice calms her down, but that did not work this time. When she did not improve after a few hours, she ended up in a veterinary urgent care center, under the watchful eye of the trained staff. Thankfully, Penny pulled through, and started to improve by the next day.
Signs and Symptoms of heat-related illness in dogs:
- Frantic panting
- Extreme salivation
- Bright-red membranes, particularly in the face
- Labored breathing
What to do if the dog is exhibiting these symptoms:
- Move into a cooler area, inside or in the shade.
- Spray the dog with cool (not overly cold or icy) water.
- Fan the dog to increase air flow around him/her.
- Wipe the dog’s face with cool water.
- Get to a vet if conditions do not immediately improve.
What we can do to prevent heat-stress in our dogs:
- Ensure that your dog has fresh water and shade, with short periods outside in hot weather.
- Don’t leave your dog in the car—with windows cracked or not. Even on a cool day (mid-60s) the temperature in a closed car rises to 130 F in minutes. The dog’s own body temperature increases the heat and moisture (especially for larger breeds), the oxygen is used up, and death can occur within 15 minutes.
- Acclimate your dog to hot weather gradually and don’t exercise him on hot, humid days. Conditioned sporting dogs, even water retrievers, can overheat if the water is warm.
- Make sure your home is cooled on warm days. If possible, install a temperature alarm in your motor home, van, and house that dials your cell phone automatically. Dogs have been lost when air conditioners or power failed unbeknown to the owners.
- Don’t place a crated dog where there is inadequate ventilation in warm, stagnant air under tents or in poorly ventilated buildings.
- Carefully observe elderly dogs, those that are chronically ill, or pets with respiratory inefficiency, like Penny.
- Although a dog’s coat can provide insulation, double coats make a dog more vulnerable to overheating and dark coats absorb heat faster in the sun.
- Contact your veterinarian and your breed club and ask about heat sensitivity in your breed.
This summer, we are much more careful with Penny. She gets her exercise in the early morning hours when it is cooler, and we spend more time inside to encourage her to stay out of the heat. We have provided a link to an article on overheating dogs by the American Kennel Club for your convenience.