When it hits 90 in February, you know it’s doing to be a hot summer. Omaha’s record-setting warm winter does not bode well for comfortable heat indexes this summer. While this makes us uncomfortable, it makes our dogs even more so as the way dogs handle the heat is different than humans and, unfortunately, they can’t tell us when they’re overheating.
When humans overheats we sweat to cool down, but dogs don’t sweat – they rely on panting to cool down. Dogs breathe in through their noses and out through their mouths. This directs airflow over the tongue and the mucous membranes of the tongue, throat and trachea to aid the cooling process by evaporating fluid. Heat is also released through dilation of blood vessels on the surface of a dog’s skin in the face, ears, and feet.
Dogs can overheat quickly so it is important to recognize symptoms that may indicate your dog is having a heat stroke or an extreme reaction to heat. If you think your dog has been overwhelmed by the heat and exhibits symptoms below, it is an emergency and you should take him to your vet immediately:
- Sluggish Behavior
- Staggering or Lack of Coordination
- Glassy Eyes
If your dog is overheated, remove him from the heat and out of direct sunlight – preferably into shade or air conditioning. Carefully run a cool, washcloth over his face and paw pads. Give him cool but not ice cold water, but don’t make him drink if he doesn’t want to. You don’t want to cool him too quickly as this can lead to other, life-threatening conditions. Dry him off and get him to the vet immediately, even if he appears to be doing better. Only your vet can check to see that your dog’s temperature is at a normal number and if all of your dog’s organs are functioning properly.
Remember that dogs should avoid strenuous exercise and spend most of their days indoors on warm days. Taking your dog for a jog, or even a walk might be good for you, but on a hot Omaha day it can lead to a heat stroke and kill your dog in a matter of minutes. There is not much shade at Hefflinger Park, so it is always best to take your dog there (or Hanscom Park for that matter) early in the morning or in the evening when the sun is not so intense and the temperature is more bearable. We want your dogs to live long healthy lives!