Why do dogs overheat?
Summer is coming and many dog lovers are looking forward to fun in the sun with their favorite canine companions. Dogs love to run and play. Sometimes more than they should. As the temperatures go up, it doesn’t take too much effort to push themselves too hard, especially if they are highly motivated (high drive) or love what they are doing. Then they overheat like this guy here.
Ways dogs cool themselves
Nature has given them some ability to cool off. Things like:
– Panting: They don’t have sweat glands in their mouths, but their tongues are wet so evaporation happens, cooling them down a bit. Evaporation decreases the temperature around it by several degrees.
– Sweating: Dogs do have sweat glands in the pads of their feet, but nowhere else. So sweating does contribute to cooling off, also with evaporation.
– Vasodilation: Their blood vessels, especially in the head and neck, expand to help drop body temperature. The larger surface lets the heat radiate off of them.
They also can make choices to help themselves, although they might not if they’re having fun.
– Limiting activity: Some dogs will stop being as active, although higher drive dogs don’t pay attention to their need to cool down. The more the muscles work, the more overheated they get.
– Laying in water, standing in a puddle: Getting wet in general helps, again, with evaporative cooling.
– Getting out of the sun: Another activity choice that a dog can make. Going somewhere with a lower temperature can help them cool off.
What if they need help cooling off?
But what if your dog doesn’t limit activity, get out of hot areas or find a puddle to lay in? If they are still overheated, they need your help so that their health and safety are not at risk. Things you can do to help are:
– Force limiting activity, take them out of the sun or hot places, have them get in a kiddie pool
– Spray/soak them with water. Many methods of using moisture can lead to evaporation.
– Anticipate that conditions will be too much and be proactive; plan outings when it isn’t as hot, keep exercise sessions short, or spray them with spray bottles.
– Use a cool coat. These are a pretty cool way (pun intended) to be proactive. The nice thing about a cool coat is that you can put it on in preparation for fun in the heat. A good, well fitting cool coat will allow all the activities your dog likes without restricting them. There are several different styles out there, with pros and cons that I’m going to cover at a later date.
Keep it fun for you AND your dog!
The thing to remember is that 1) HEAT will happen and 2) your dog will not have fun and might even suffer or die if you don’t prevent extreme overheating. So, in order to keep those summer activities fun, you need to be aware and plan. You don’t want to miss out!