After a winter spent cooped up inside, it’s likely that both you and your dog will be anxious to get outside and enjoy the warmer weather. Although the temperatures in spring are generally fairly moderate, regions in the south can be hot even in April and May. As the years moves into summer, higher temperatures will prevail almost everywhere, meaning that you will have to make some effort to assure that your dog is negatively impacted by hot weather.
Obviously, any breed of dog can be harmed by high temperatures, but there are some breeds of dog, called brachycephalic, that have heightened sensitivity to summer heat. Brachycephalic dogs have shortened faces and include breeds like English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Boxers, Pugs, Japanese Spaniels, French Mastiffs, Toy English Spaniel, Boston Terriers, and Bullmastiffs. These dogs with flatter faces are much more likely to be affected by high temperatures and care must be taken to prevent heat stroke or dehydration.
You must restrict exercise to early morning or evening when the temperatures are cooler and suspend exercise completely during a heat wave. Make sure the dog always has fresh water available. No brachycephalic dog is an ‘outside’ dog, especially during the summer. When the temperatures soar, keep the dog in an air conditioned room or home. You must take your flat faced dog to the vet at the first signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Although the terms ‘heat exhaustion’ and ‘heat stroke’ are used interchangeably, they are slightly different, with heat exhaustion being the milder form that could lead to heat stroke if untreated. Because of the inability of a dog to describe his or her symptoms, treat any heat related problem as heat stroke. There are signs that your dog may be suffering from heat stroke and these include thick saliva and bright red or even purple tongue and gums, rapid, excessive panting, wobbly gait, vomiting, and/or hot ears and nose.
Because heat stroke includes dehydration, your dog will need to be treated at the vet’s office as soon as possible to prevent permanent organ damage, but you can help to treat heat stroke by bathing the dog in tepid water, giving your pup cool water (if your pup will drink Gatorade, give that), and getting him or her into the shade or an air conditioned space. Even if your pup seems to revive with your treatment, intravenous fluids will probably be needed to restore the body’s chemical balance.
As much as you may enjoy riding with your dog, you may want to leave him at home once the temperature gets above 60 degrees F. We leave our French Bulldogs at home during the warmer months unless they have to visit the vet. We have found that even a short trip of 2 miles during the summer can begin to affect them. Older dogs will be much more likely to be harmed by high temperatures than younger ones.
It is thought that hundreds of dogs die from being left in cars every year, and this is totally preventable. Cracking a window, even if the car is left in the shade on a hot day, will do nothing to prevent the heat in the car from rising above 120 degrees in less than half an hour. Air conditioning will be of little or no use since, even if you leave the car running, it will shut itself off in about 20 minutes, meaning that the dog will have no protection whatsoever against climbing temperatures. And, even if you think you will only be in the store or bank for a minute or two, these visits have a way of stretching out to a half hour or more.
If you must take you dog with you when it’s hot, make sure you take along water. A cooler with ice and a wet towel is also a good idea. A breakdown could create an emergency situation for your dog, so always be prepared for the worst.