Dog Days

Every day of this past week, I have seen dogs doing intense exercise mid-day in the sun.

Because dogs would follow you–their person, their beloved person–to the end of the Earth, doesn’t mean you should ask them to.

I have observed that people who own exotic pets, farm animals, birds, fish, etc. know a lot more about those species than than dog or cat owners know about their pets. Dogs and cats are so integrated in our lives that we forget that they are a very different species from our own.

If you want to know about your canines, watch what they do and where they go. Between 10am and 5pm, in the heat of summer, where are they? Stretched out in the hole they dug for the millionth time in your prized garden, even after you have told them not to and blocked the area with stones and little fences? Inside the house, sleeping on the cool kitchen floor in front of a fan? Or are they trying to catch their breath, tongue scraping the pavement after you have thrown the ball for thirty minutes midday when it was 85 degrees out? Maybe even under the front seat of the car panting?

Cooling off in the river

Dogs WILL NOT always make the right decision when it comes to survival, because they are not in the company of other members of the Canidae family. Our dogs are embedded in human families, and humans who live in cities do not follow the natural rhythms of seasons, weather, sun/moon etc. Our dogs’ human families have taught them to chase balls, hunt, herd, rescue, guard. And many dogs will perform those tasks until they drop from exhaustion.

If you spend anytime in Africa, Southern France, Italy, Spain, you will notice that people rest and take naps in the heat of the day. That is in fact what most in the animal kingdom do when it is hot outside. So please, reconsider taking your dog out to farmer’s markets, outdoor concerts, organized walks, rallies etc., where they will be too hot, stepped on, and over-stimulated, between 10 and 5. Follow their example, take a nap, wallow in the cool water of a kiddie-pool, chat with friends in the shade by the river.

Dogs overheat much faster than humans. Although they have a few sweat glands near the pads of their feet, it is their panting that cools them off. Their fur when brushed and free of mats allows for circulation of air to cool their skin. Their core temperature is between 101/102. After ball running for 20 minutes their core temp will have risen 5/10 degrees. Then you put them in the car for a ride home. The car was in the shade but in 20 minutes, even with all four windows cracked it is now 90 degrees inside. You decide to stop by the store. You notice the heavy panting and assume it is from the exercise. Again you crack the windows open. You are back in 10 minutes. They could be dead, or in need of immediate veterinary care. In the 10 minutes you were gone the car, even with the windows open heated up to 100 degrees and the dogs’ core temp never came down from exercise. They were unable to cool down.

Dogs with short noses (brachycephane breeds) ie Boxers, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Shar peis etc, puppies, old dogs, and sick dogs, cannot breathe well enough to cool themselves. Extreme care should be given on hot days. Make sure their panting decreases after their outing, hose them down with cool water, give them ice cubes, put them in front of a box fan, drape them with a cold wet towel.

Signs of overheating:

  • heavy panting
  • hyperventilation (deep breathing)
  • increased salivation early then dry gums as the heat prostration progresses
  • weakness
  • confusion or inattention
  • vomiting or diarrhea
A common mistake is to force your ball/stick/frisbee-crazy dog to continue playing when he stops retrieving, instead choosing to lie down while panting heavily. Do not assume defiance/laziness–the dog is overheating. Rest in the shade, give him water, GO HOME.

Kiddie Pool $15. at True value. Get the small size.

See you out back…(in the kiddie pool)

Tip of the day: bring water and a bowl for your dog whenever you go out with her for longer than a potty break. Do not bike your dog on hot pavement in the sun. (I see this done at least once a week).



1 thought on “Dog Days

  1. Always great information. While I was in PT this week, and came back out to the car…Kelly pointed out a dog in the car next to us panting heavily. It had 2 front windows cracked but it was 10:30 in the morning and the car wasn’t in the shade. I saw some elderly people playing tennis and asked them if it was their dog. Yes, one woman said. I told her that her dog was having heat stroke. She rushed up and opened the car door and said “oh-he is ok, just excited. I tried to explain that her 1 hour tennis match could mean death for her dog and she should bring her dog over to the court and leash it up in the shade. I swear people just don’t want to believe it can happen in less than 5 minutes. (heat stroke)

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