Hudson column: Heat can threaten hot dogs

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 17, 2011

The most dangerous time of the year is here for your dog. Summertime brings oppressive heat and humidity that can kill your canine companion quickly, before you have time to do anything about it.
“When you’re going along at 80 or 85 degrees, there are no problems,” said Dr. Charles Steinman, a veterinarian who opened Animal Care Center of Salisbury in 1972. “Then all of a sudden it hits 95 degrees, a certain number of dogs, they just can’t adapt to a certain change in temperature like that. They get hot and then they start panting and they get into a frenzy and can’t cool themselves down.”
From this point, things can go downhill very quickly. That is why taking precautions to keep your dog cool and comfortable this summer is really the only way to make sure your pet doesn’t suffer from heat stroke.
“We had a case recently where there were eight dogs at a family outing,” Steinman said. “All the dogs had water and shade. But one dog just couldn’t adapt. So you’ve got to watch your dogs very closely.”
Steinman says the obvious situation to avoid is having a dog chained in the sun without access to shade or water. Keeping a dog in the car without the air conditioner running would be just as deadly. In fact, keeping any living creature in a car with the windows up in the summer time is equivalent to a death sentence.
Indications that your dog is having trouble cooling down include excessive panting or hyperventilating. Vomiting and diarrhea can also occur, Steinman said, and the dog may become unsteady.
This is when pet owners have a narrow window in which to get their dogs cool. First, immediately move the dog to shade. Next, take a garden hose and slowly start to wet the dog down, giving him opportunities to drink a little bit of water at a time. Then, get him to a veterinarian.
The best way to check whether or not a dog is truly overheated is by taking a rectal temperature, which most pet owners aren’t prepared to do. Coma, permanent brain damage and even death are very likely for dogs that don’t get timely treatment.
Dogs that are left home alone, chained in the yard, are at risk because by the time someone notices something is wrong it is often too late.
Certain breeds are more susceptible to heat stroke because of the shape of their nose.
Bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, boxers and other short-nosed breeds can’t pant effectively to cool themselves down.
It doesn’t take much for these breeds to suffer from heat stroke. Likewise, breeds that feature long coats of fur that are specialized to handle cold weather, such as a husky, will also suffer in the summer. But long-nosed dogs, such as retrievers and collies, might not have any trouble at all.
Early morning and late evening are good times to exercise your pet, when the heat is not as bad. In fact, using a lot of common sense will go a long way to keeping your dog healthy.
“If they’ve got shade, some dirt to lay on, and plenty of water, they’ll probably be fine,” Steinman said. “But you have to watch them.”
Glenn Hudson is a freelance fishing writer based in Salisbury. Contact him at