How To Beat The Heat
by Sandy Herzon(As it appeared in the National Labrador Retriever Newsletter)
We are not talking basketball here folks, like in the Miami Heat basketball team. I am referring to the stuff old man sun puts out here in Miami and in Elsewhere, USA. It is an element powerful enough to crack crags in mountains made out of granite, melt asphalt on super highways and even fry an egg on a cars hood on a real hot, sizzling summer day.
Living in South Florida, our exposure to the heat is an all year-round experience. No matter what season we are in, we need to take heed about the heat situation. Of special concern to dog owners and in particular to the those who own black Labrador Retrievers, great care has to be taken to ensure that several things do not occur. With the black Labs, retention of heat is of great concern. Overheating raises the dogs body temperature way beyond tolerable limits. Overheating can lead to a heatstroke. Heatstroke occurrences are very common in our area, sometimes leading to total collapse and even death. Dehydration is another common occurrence. In most cases, by the time you notice that the dog is suffering from loss of fluids, it is almost too late to reverse the adverse results. It usually takes several days to bring a dog back to normal after such an ordeal.
There are many things we can do to spare our four legged buddies, these unsavory scenarios. Prior planning might insure the avoidance of such a calamitous situation.
Providing plenty of shade is essential, most dogs know better than to stand out in full sun, it is the owners that need educating. If the endeavor you and your pooch are participating in, demands that both of you be out in the open, then common sense should dictate that some type of cover, tarp or lean-to be used to keep your dog from full sun exposure. Several companies make shade cloth type crates that can house a dog for short periods of time and give the dog a break from direct sunlight and the heat.
Cooling the dog off with moist towels, spritzing with water and providing ice chips for the dog to eat are excellent ways to manage overheating. If the dog shows signs of overheating, avoid giving the dog too much water to drink at one sitting, as this could lead to bloating, especially if the event calls for strenuous activity.
Just like athletes consume "Sport Drinks", such as GATORADEâ or the like, to replace fluids and electrolytes lost from sweating, there are similar products available for dogs. NUPROâ by Nutripet Research, is an electrolyte replacer for dogs. This product comes in powder form that is mixed with clean water and can be administered to your dogs prior to any activity where your dog will be exposed to the heat. It is sold at most horse feed stores or through the wholesale catalogues. A good substitute that can also be used is PEDIALYTEâ or RICEALYTEâ , both can be found at any large drug store, Wal-Mart or supermarket in the infant formula section. This product comes in liquid form and may be given straight out of the container.
One of my fellow Labrador Retriever breeders, Andy Gonzalez of Greenhead Labradors, first introduced me to the previously mentioned product NUPROâ . Andy, who also runs dogs in the Junior/Senior/Master Hunting Trials, and is also an accredited AKC judge for these events, tells me he would not be caught without this powder-form electrolyte replacer. Before an up and coming event, he begins by adding a couple a tablespoon of the powder in the drinking water, to the dogs he is planning on running. During each day of competition, the dogs are provided with fresh water and the electrolyte added. In addition, the dogs are kept in their portable kennels on his pickup truck, that were custom built from high reflective aluminum, padded insulation and come equipped with fans to circulate air throughout the compartments.
Another fellow Lab breeder and Search and Rescue (SAR) participant, whom I contacted for this article was, Beth Miller of Magnolia Labradors. She conveyed to me the importance of proper preparations for those conditions caused by excessive heat and loss of fluids to their dogs. Many a times during search and rescue missions, the excitement and urgency of the quest is so great, that both the dog and human are totally exhausted at days end, so prior preparations to combat heatstroke and fluid loss is vital for the SAR teams.
The normal body temperature of most dogs can vary from 100 degrees F to 102.5 degrees F. With our Labs. 101.5 seems to be the norm. A combination of stress, high activity and heat can wreak havoc with the dogs normal temperature range. Dogs can normally regulate their body temperature by heavy panting, which increases the amount of air flowing over the moist membranes found inside the mouth cavity, thus cooling them by the process of evaporation. However, with these combinations of fatigue, stress, high levels of activity and excessive heat, and add the high humidity found in our area, can lead to the dogs normal body temperature to rise to dangerous levels well above 108 degrees F. Sudden and extreme rises in body temperatures as these are cause for alarm and should be treated as life threatening for the dog. The dogs regulatory system can cope with a few degrees above normal, with anything beyond 104 degrees F. Severely altering normal cell metabolism. Once a dog reaches such a condition, they should be treated for heatstroke (hyperthermia). Emergency measures call for artificially cooling the dogs body with cool water and forcing air to circulate over the dog to create evaporation. A large fan, blow dryer or even the exhaust end of a vacuum cleaner can be used. Veterinary care should be sought as soon as possible since a heatstroke can lead to gastrointestinal failure, liver and kidney dysfunction, heart failure and other abnormalities leading to death.
As with most endeavors, common sense should always prevail when planning an outing with your dog, whether it is here in our hot and humid South Florida climate or your own bailiwick. So till next time, keep them healthy, happy and heeling, and out of the heat!
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