How Summer Heat and Humidity Affect Your Dog

By June 19, 2017Blog
summer heat

You are probably already well aware of the fact that heat affects your dog much more than it affects you, due to their permanent fur coat. Even though dogs shed their undercoat in preparation for the summer heat, they can still find it incredibly difficult to stay cool in hot weather–especially if humidity is added to the mix–and they will need your help.

The Combined Effect of Heat and Humidity on Your Dog

Where heat produces a measurable change in temperature, humidity can produce a further apparent change in temperature that greatly increases the risk of heat-related illnesses. Humidity is essentially water vapor that hangs in the air and makes the temperature feel hotter than it actually is. More importantly, humidity makes it difficult for perspiration to evaporate normally. This means that the main mechanism that dogs rely on in order to remain cool is greatly affected by humidity. Even when the actual temperature is only ninety degrees Fahrenheit, high humidity can make the temperature feel like one hundred five degrees Fahrenheit and your dog’s risk of contracting heatstroke increases dramatically.

Heatstroke in dogs is extremely dangerous, and sometimes even fatal because it creates an actual chemical reaction that destroys the cells in the body. Dogs that are most at risk for suffering from heatstroke are those under six months of age, senior pets, overweight pets, ill pets, medicated pets, pets who overexert themselves, brachycephalic pets who naturally suffer from breathing issues, pets with poor circulation and pets who are dehydrated. Fortunately, preventing heatstroke in dogs is simple when one knows that it can happen especially when there is both heat and humidity, that heatstroke can be prevented, and that heatstroke can also be spotted and quickly resolved.

Signs of Heatstroke

Some of the signs that your dog may be suffering from heatstroke include:

⦁ Increased heart rate

⦁ Rapid, heavy panting

⦁ Bright red tongue

⦁ Either bright red or very pale gums

⦁ Unnaturally thick, sticky saliva

⦁ Lack of appetite

⦁ Depression

⦁ Weakness

⦁ Dizziness

⦁ Vomiting

⦁ Diarrhea

⦁ Shock

⦁ Coma

If you notice any of the signs of heatstroke in your dog, it is vital that you remove them from the heat immediately. For severe signs of heatstroke you should immediately contact your veterinarian and arrange an emergency visit. However, in more minor cases of heatstroke you may be able to help your dog cool off even before a trip to the veterinarian by taking the following actions:

⦁ Wet your dog thoroughly with lukewarm water and expose him to a fan. It is important not to use cold water or an air conditioner as this can cause him to cool down too quickly, which comes with its own medical problems.

⦁ Once your dog’s body temperature is around one hundred three degrees Fahrenheit (just above normal) dry and cover your dog so that their body temperature does not continue to fall.

⦁ Encourage your dog to drink room-temperature water. That said, do not give them cold water and do not force them to drink.

⦁ Take your dog to the veterinarian. Even if your dog seems to be recovering well or is apparently back to his normal self, it is always wise to have him checked by the veterinarian to ensure that he is not dehydrated or susceptible to other medical complications as a result of experiencing heatstroke.

Prevention is Best

As a general rule, you should always ensure that your dog is well-protected from the heat. For outdoor dogs, this means ensuring that they always have adequate shade and fresh, cool water. During summer months it is best to only exercise your dog in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler, and be mindful of their need to take shorter walks or more frequent breaks on walks. If the temperature reaches ninety degrees, especially if it is also humid, consider bringing outdoor dogs indoors where they can benefit from air conditioning. You can also freeze water in bottles and place them on the floor so that your dog can lie next to them and cool down. It is never a good idea to leave a dog in a car for any amount of time, but it is especially dangerous during the summer months. Be mindful of your dog’s needs and you should be able to entirely prevent a heat-related problem from occurring.

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