Make Sure You Don't Overheat Your Dog This Summer
The sun had just risen over the horizon as Paul and his German Shorthaired Pointer, Roxy, set out on their early morning mountain bike ride.
The weather forecast for the day was expected to be sunny and warm with highs in the upper 80's to low 90's, but Paul figured they would be back before any real heat picked up.
Paul wanted to try a new loop he had never done before and figured that since he had been biking with Roxy all winter she would have no issues keeping up.
About 7 miles into the ride, Paul and Roxy became very lost. The trail was more remote than he anticipated and they hadn't seen anyone for the last 4 miles or so. The sun was now very high in the sky and you could see the waves of heat roll across the dry dirt trail.
This was the warmest day they had seen in this area in quite a while and it caught them both off-guard. Roxy was panting heavily in exhaustion. Paul had never seen her tongue so long and used the last of his water to soak her head. Her eyes were fatigued and squinting from the sun.
Hours later, Paul and Roxy managed to find their way back to the truck, but he knew it was too much for his best friend. The ride was 3x longer than planned and they were just reaching the truck well past peak heat for the day.
Paul soaked Roxy immediately upon arriving at the truck, gave her water to drink, and lifted her into the front seat so the vents would shower her in air conditioning.
Her intense panting began to become more controlled and Paul knew he dodged a bullet. He almost put his best friend in a very bad situation.
Paul and Roxy turned out just fine, but I personally know people who have lost dogs due to overheating. It is a serious issue and something you need to be cautious about as the weather warms up this summer.
Protecting Your Dog From Overheating
Overheating is a condition that develops from the body's inability to regulate its own temperature. Basically, the heat production from the body is greater than what your body can handle. This is know as hyperthermia.
It is not uncommon to see heat strokes in dogs, especially working dogs.
The most common issue that can lead to this is lack of physical condition of dogs.
Too often hunters, or just pet owners in general, take their dog from the couch to the field or trail and expect performance.
Imagine you deciding to run a marathon that morning after not having trained or ran for the previous 3 months. The outcome is going to be unpleasant to say the least..
Other causes of over heating include lack of acclimatization, high humidity, and high temperatures ( even for fit dogs ).
You'll likely see heat related issues when a dog performs too intense of exercise without warming up properly also.
Additionally, just like humans, an obese dog is going to be more at risk to overheating than a healthy bodyweight one.
Another important thing to note is that just because you dog is wet does not mean they are cool. Often times, depending on where you live geographically, bodies of water can heat up so much that it's like your dog is swimming in a hot tub!
The bottom line is use common sense and if you are hot, your dog probably is too.
Signs of Hyperthermia
The best way to treat hyperthermia is to stop it before it starts. Keep a close eye on your dog and if you know it is going to be warm that day make sure you will have plenty of water and shade opportunities on whatever adventure you are going on.
Signs that your dog may be getting close to overheating include heavy panting and/or extreme hyperventilation.
These dogs are not hot, they are cooking. They are trying to move as much air as possible in a desperate attempt to dissipate body heat. Hyper-salivating is common to see at the same time as well.
Your dog may come back with long ropes or drool of have puddles of saliva under them ( more than usual ).
They will also have a glassed over look to them with their eyes clouded and mentally just not there - as if the lights are on but no one is home.
This can be a dangerous scenario.
From here it could lead to muscle collapse, diarrhea and vomiting.
During heat stroke, all the body systems are affected. Your dogs body is essentially cooking itself inside out as the proteins denature. This can lead to blood abnormalities, including acute liver disease and kidney failure.
If your dog has gone this far into over heating they will need to be treated immediately or it could be fatal.
Treating Overheating Dogs
If you do not have access to a veterinarian and need to treat your dog in the field or backcountry, keeping them cool and trying to lower their body temperature is key.
Wading with them in a creek or cool body of water can help - just make sure you are there with them so they don't collapse and drown if the water levels are deep.
Applying something cold like ice or a wet towel to the hairless portion of the their belly and deep in their armpits and groin area are vital as these are large blood vessel areas that can help cool them quickly.
If you do decide the vet is necessary, do not stop trying to cool them on the way to the vet. Unfortunately, many dogs that survive still have lasting effects. The sooner you get them cooled down and back to normal levels the better.
Again, prevention is the best way to treat overheating in your dog.
Making sure your dog has access to clean water is obviously the most important when it comes to keeping your dog hydrated during the warmer months, but there are a couple hacks we use to take it one step further.
Pumpkin is an extremely powerful source of fiber and one that holds much of the water it soaks up when consumed.
Another amazing way to hydrate your dog is coconut water. Simply add it to their food and it is a great way to give them more hydration with electrolytes than just plain water ( though make sure they always have access to clean, plain water as well ).
Don't let this discourage you from adventures this summer, just be smart and keep your best friends well-being in mind as I know you all do!