The warmer weather hit Meaford like a brick wall last week, a prudent reminder of the sweltering days yet to come. The seasonal change in temperature certainly means more time spent enjoying the outdoors with family, friends, and pets, but it is important to make sure you’re not overdoing it.
Even more so than humans, dogs can dehydrate quickly in warm weather. During times of activity on hotter days, our four-legged BFFs are susceptible to serious temperature-related problems, like heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Our pets must always have ready access to shaded areas and fresh, cool water. Even if you’re spending the day hiking on Meaford’s beautiful wooded trails, or enjoying some sun and fun at the leash-free dog beach, it’s imperative that your dog has ample opportunities to keep cool – no matter their age, size, or breed.
A dog’s natural cooling mechanisms are somewhat inefficient. Unlike humans, who cool down by sweating all over our body, dogs only sweat from their nose and feet. Instead, panting is a dog’s primary cooling response. As the tongue expands and fills with blood, rapid air movement from panting cools the blood as it circulates back into the body. Panting also helps to boost evaporation of water from the lungs and nose. As water evaporates, the faster a dog will dehydrate, further reinforcing the importance of proper hydration during times of activity and high temperatures.
If your dog experiences any of these symptoms throughout the summer months, see a veterinarian immediately:
- Rapid, unusual panting
- A high fever, often accompanied by warm and dry skin
- Uncoordinated movement, collapsing
- Staring or acting anxiously, outside of normal behaviour
- A rapid heartbeat
These symptoms describe some of the more common signs of heatstroke, and if not treated immediately can be fatal.
This next part should go without saying, but every summer we hear about pets dying in hot cars. Heat stroke, or hyperthermia, is an absolutely horrific way to die. As a dog’s body temperature increases, the heart begins to cut off blood flow to the brain (and other vital organs), causing a lack of oxygen; the heart can only work so hard until it becomes exhausted. High temperatures cause proteins to fold, causing the death of cells. And in the brain’s case, the cerebellum (the part of the brain responsible for motor function) is commonly the first to start failing. As a dog’s body temperature continues to rise, virtually every vital system will begin to shut down, leading to an agonizing, heart-wrenching death.
A study conducted by Arizona State University in 2018 demonstrated just how hot vehicles can get. On a day with temperatures in the mid-high 30°s Celsius, researchers took identical vehicles and parked one in the sun and the other in the shade. After one hour in the sun, the average cabin temperature was 46°C, with dashboard temperatures reaching almost 70°C. This is hot enough to burn human skin. The vehicles in the shade were also tested, proving shade does not keep a vehicle as cool as once thought. Average cabin temperatures reached almost 40°C and dashboard temperatures were almost 50°C. Whether you are parked in the sun or in the shade, it is still too hot to leave a pet or person in an unattended vehicle for any duration of time – even if the windows are down.
On top of keeping our pooches cool and well hydrated, it is conjointly important to protect their paws. The bottoms of a dog’s paws, commonly referred to as the pads, are a built-in cooling mechanism that is essential to temperature regulation on sunny days. Because of this, walking on hot pavement can be detrimental. A dog’s sensitive pads can easily burn and blister from walking on hot surfaces. If you’re planning to take your pooch for a walk, go outside and place your hand firmly on the sidewalk or pavement first. If it’s too hot to be comfortable for you, it will be painful for your dog as well.
Keeping your dog well-groomed is another great way to help them enjoy warmer days to the fullest. A skilled pet groomer can help to remove thick undercoats, and give advice on the best trim to keep your dog feeling cool and looking cool. With that said, this is the beginning of peak grooming season, so make sure you book well in advance to avoid long wait times.
When it comes to beating the heat this summer, your best asset is simply using good judgment. Schedule your dog’s activity for early in the morning or in the evening when temperatures are cooler and the sun is not directly overhead.
We are so fortunate to live in a place like Meaford; a place where we can enjoy fresh air, clean water, and all the nature you could ask for. Spending time outdoors is good for our mind, body, and soul, and this especially rings true for our dogs. By taking a few simple precautions, we can ensure that all our summer outings are safe and fun-filled at the same time.
Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon is certified in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit www.CanadianPetConnection.ca