Heat stroke, sunburn and other hot weather hazards for pets
Here's another Miami Herald article for your reading pleasure (yes, I know it's not hot anymore where you are but I'm still sweltering as I write this):
My vet says that my dog Maggie, a big, black Lab mix, can’t go for a walk during the day in the summer now that she’s ten. But I know she needs exercise, even when it’s hot outside. What can I do to keep her active during the hottest months?
Hot weather ‘s a pet hazard all year round here in South Florida. Some pets suffer more than most, such as heavy-coated Northern breeds and hard-breathing bulldogs—like my own little “Frenchies.” Geriatric dogs like Maggie are also more susceptible to the heat.
A dog’s cooling mechanism relies largely on respiration. That means that older lungs and snub-nosed breeds have a tougher time. Big, heavy coats can actually act as insulation—until they start trapping heat after long periods of exercise. Dark-coated dogs are also predisposed, especially when walking in direct sunlight. So Maggie’s better off strolling through shady Coconut Grove early in the morning than on sunny Lincoln Road at high noon. Wherever you go, lots of cool water is a must.
Heat stroke is the biggest risk, literally causing blood-curdling, organ-damaging disease—often in just a few minutes’ time. Symptoms include excessively loud panting (often hard to discern in a willing-to-please, excited pet) and eventually, collapse.
Water, wherever you can get it, is the first treatment. Wet the tongue, ears and extremities first, then the whole pet. Load him up in an air-conditioned car and make a beeline for the nearest open hospital. Minutes count, so call ahead if you can.
Intravenous fluids and other cooling therapies are usually in order. Gradual fever resolution is the goal—so an ice bath at home is usually contraindicated. Temperatures over 106 degrees are unfortunately the norm, and organ damage isn’t quickly discernible, so expect at least a 24-hour hospital stay.
Other hot weather issues include burnt pads and sunburn. Ever walk on the beach at midday? Your dog’s pads are often about as thick as your tougher calluses so don’t expect comfort from a stroll on hot asphalt. And pale dogs with thin fur can burn just like we do. Booties and child-safe sunscreen sprays help, but noontime in the summer sun is no time to be out walking your dog.
Consider indoor games, such as short-distance fetch, lots and lots of supervised swimming, and the calming, “sit, stay, come” routine (which I advise for all active or anxious dogs). If you’re extra-motivated, I know some bulldog owners who have even managed to train for treadmill walks. It’s a challenge, to be sure, but your dog will thank you in reduced poundage and increased musculature, attainable even in our blistering South Florida summers.