Monday, July 27, 2015

Hydrating Your Pet This Summer -- Mia's Story

We all enjoy spending time outdoors in the summer with our dogs, but it is important to keep them hydrated and cool to lessen the risk of heat-related illness. Our four-legged companions, unlike us, don't sweat to cool themselves and while we see them panting we may not realize the amount of water they are losing. They lose water and dissipate heat through a process called evaporation, which is the endothermic process of a fluid changing to a vapor.

By panting, dogs bring large quantities of air in contact with the mucosal surfaces of the nose and mouth. This allows them to dissipate heat, provided the air is cooler than the surface it is moving over. Your dog's ability to cool himself through this method effectively decreases as humidity increases; therefore, it is important to consider the heat index. The heat index combines air temperature and relative humidity in an attempt to determine the human-perceived equivalent temperature. So, while we are sweating away and realize we are becoming dehydrated, we don't realize that "Fido" is dehydrated. Once dehydrated, dogs are less able to cool themselves through evaporative cooling--much like a car without water in the radiator. They will rapidly overheat and suffer from heat stroke.

There are several things that can be done to help maintain adequate hydration and avoid heat stroke. First, make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water before, during and after being outside. If you are planning on taking your dog out for an extended period of time, bring along water and offer it every 15-30 minutes. Plenty of pet-friendly water bottles with dishes are available online or in your local pet and sporting goods stores.

Watch your dog for symptoms of dehydration. These include a tacky feeling when the gums are touched and the skin becoming slow to return to its natural position when pulled up. Other signs include excessive panting and a rapid heart rate. It is a good idea to evaluate your dog prior to going out so you have an idea of what his normal hydration is like. This being said, most veterinarians find it difficult to determine when a dog is less than five percent dehydrated; therefore, if you feel your pet is dehydrated it is better to err on the side of caution and stop your activity. If you suspect your dog may be dehydrated, you should offer him water and find a cool place in the shade for recovery.

To avoid dehydration in the summer sun, avoid activity in the middle of the day and allow your dog time to get used to warm temperatures. In other words, don't take him for a long walk on the first warm day of the year. Consider, also, your dog's health and breed. Dogs with heavy coats, pre-existing respiratory conditions (whether acquired or congenital) or who are overweight are at considerably more risk for having trouble as temperatures and humidity increase.

Finally, remember to never leave your dog in the car. The temperature inside your car can rapidly rise over forty degrees in an hour. The majority of the increase in temperature occurs in the first half hour. Studies have shown that having the windows "cracked" does not sufficiently decrease the temperature rise and there is virtually no difference in the temperature after one hour. So, when transporting your four-legged companions to your favorite outdoor activity, do not leave them in the car for any length of time.

This summer while you and your pup are out enjoying the weather, remember to keep his hydration and the forecast in mind. Pay careful attention to cues your dog may give that he is over-exerting himself in the heat. It is better to underestimate your dog's fitness and overestimate his dehydration than to take a chance with heatstroke.
Written by Tom Linnenbrink, DVM
Heat stroke has been one of the major ailments we have been treating at VSES in the last few weeks. Dogs have been coming in after being left in cars on some of the hottest days, or even left outside without water or shade. The latter is the case for Mia. Mia was found by neighbors who spotted her outside and unresponsive, without proper shelter or hydration. They were instructed by Operation Gypsy Inc.-- a local volunteer group who is dedicated to located and recovering lost, missing, stray, abused and neglected pets--to call the authorities. The neighbors then began measures to cool the pup while authorities were on the way. The police instructed the owners to send this pup to our hospital for treatment and when they didn't consent to proper care, she was seized by animal control and brought to VSES.

We treated Mia for the symptoms of heat stroke and in a few days she was ready to go into foster care with a local rescue group, Rescued Treasures. Operation Gypsy Inc. is raising donations to fund the costs of this little pup's treatments at VSES. Because of the quick response of her rescuers, Mia is now able to run and play with her new foster family with her second shot of life.

The summer is at its hottest now and this week temperatures will climb into the low nineties. Please contact your veterinarian if you are unsure of what you can do to keep your pets cool or if you think your pet may be suffering from heat related ailments.

Mia's foster family sent us this wonderful video of Mia loving life and getting the chance to be a young, happy pup!