It has been an unusual spring, indeed. Fortunately, we have had a good deal of rain as of late. But the summer heat is upon us, as well—and pet owners must be sensitive to this issue.

Heat exhaustion is a terribly dangerous and insidious condition that can impact our pets, particularly heavy-coated dog breeds. At about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, a dog left in the car with windows could suffer heatstroke in less than 10 minutes. Another concern is pet owners who jog with their pets. I always emphasize to folks that most dog breeds are built to be sprinters, rather than distance-runners. Every year, I hear stories about dogs who were jogging (or simply walking) at a reasonable clip around places like Creve Coeur Lake; and quite abruptly, the pet starts to weaken and may begin to breath heavily/pant, hyper-salivate, shiver and collapse into a stupor—or worse, may faint away dead, with their body temperature usually registering at 106 or higher. But note that logical and reasonable pet management can help to prevent such calamities.

Dr. Doug’s Rules of Summer Care:

  1. Walk pets early in the morning or after sunset.
  2. Take a water source along with you—or be sure there are resources nearby.
  3. Do not race dogs during the hot summer season.
  4. Take a pocket digital thermometer with you, and check your dog if you note any behavioral changes or signs as mentioned herein.
  5. Carry your veterinarian’s phone number, as well as the number for a nearby emergency vet facility.

Age, breed and coat condition—or any other medical condition—afflicting your pet should be taken into consideration when exercising them. Discuss preventive steps your veterinarian may want to include with my own suggestions above.

Should you note signs of concern—and you verify an elevated temperature (104 degrees or higher)—immediately find shade and a source of water or ice, and begin to soak down your pet. Call your vet or the emergency facility, and rush along to make sure your pet is not suffering a true heatstroke condition. Often, elevated body temperatures begin to damage body tissues, with kidneys suffering as a result.

Sunburn also is an issue, especially affecting the muzzle region or other less-furry body parts that might result from shaving our pets too closely. Alert your groomer to make sure they don’t shave down too closely.

Finally, remember that after any form of exercise, be careful not to allow your dog to engulf a ton of water. Large to giant breeds are especially susceptible to a condition called ‘bloat,’ in which the stomach swells with food, gas and/or water, and can turn on its own axis and shut down needed blood supply to the stomach and spleen. These dogs become toxic very quickly—and sadly, can pass within hours.

Have a safe and enjoyable summer season with your pets, and give special attention to make sure they avoid heat exhaustion.

Dr. Doug Pernikoff practices at the Clarkson-Wilson Veterinary Clinic/Veterinary Pet Rescue. For more information, visit clarksonwilsonvet.com.

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