Hot Summer Temperatures Coupled With High Humidity Can Overheat
Prepared by Jason Nicol.
For more information contact Dr. William
Fortney at 785-532-4135.
MANHATTAN -- High humidity and soaring temperatures make for hot
The old saying
that it's not the heat but the humidity that makes summer days so miserable is
particularly apt when it comes to dogs and their well-being. According to Dr.
William Fortney, assistant professor of clinical sciences in the College of
Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University, dogs become less efficient at
cooling themselves as the humidity rises. "Just like people, dogs are cooled by
evaporation. The problem with high humidity is that it decreases evaporation and
slows down the cooling process," Fortney said. "This time of year we hear a lot
about the heat index, which is a measurement of both the temperature and the
humidity level, and that is what an owner needs to pay close attention to."
There are other factors that hinder canines' ability to cool themselves. They
only have sweat glands on the pads of their feet and on their nose, which are
inadequate for cooling during hot and humid days, Fortney said. "Panting helps
dogs cool themselves but they still aren't as efficient at cooling themselves as
people are," Fortney added. "A dog's heavy coat also works against the cooling
process which makes them that much more prone to heat exhaustion." Fortney said
there are several stages a dog suffering from heat exhaustion goes through.
Heavy panting is the first. That soon gives way to huffing and puffing and the
dog will lie down or collapse. If left untreated it will slip into
unconsciousness and die. The first step pet owners should take if their dog is
suffering from heat exhaustion is to cease all activity, get the animal out of
the sun and give it water, Fortney said. "The owner can then put the dog in the
bath tub or let the garden hose run for a few seconds and then spray the dog
down. Then it can be placed in front of a fan which will aid in evaporation,"
Fortney said. "Ice bags can also be placed around the dog's head and neck."
Fortney also said it is important to start the cooling process as soon as
possible. "A person's first reaction might be to jump in the car and get the dog
to a veterinarian, but in a case of heat exhaustion this is the wrong thing to
do," Fortney said. "When a dog's temperature has reached 108 or 110 degrees it
can only take a couple of minutes before brain damage can occur. The car ride
could take five to 10 minutes, so the owner needs to cool the dog down before
taking it to a veterinarian." There are several activities that can cause heat
exhaustion in dogs, such as running, being outside for an extended period of
time or just sitting in the sun for too long. However, Fortney said that the
main cause for over-heated dogs is an avoidable situation that is all too
common. "A lot of the heat exhaustion cases we see are a result of dogs being
left in a car," Fortney said. "A person can't crack the windows enough to cool
down the dog without letting it out of the car. This is the worst case scenario
and it only takes a few minutes before it becomes a matter of life and
the way dogs cool themselves, they are more susceptible to heat exhaustion than
humans. Below are some steps for the identification and treatment of heat
* Dog begins huffing and puffing or gasping for air
* Dog begins
to weave when it walks because of dizziness
* Dog lays down or collapses and
can't get up
* Dog becomes unconscious
the seriousness of the situation, these are the steps an owner should take if
your dog is suffering from heat exhaustion:
1. Move the dog
out of the sun and into the shade or into an air-conditioned building.
Give the dog water to drink.
3. Rinse the dog off either in the bath tub or
with a garden hose.
4. Place the dog in front of a fan while it is still
5. Place ice bags around the dog's head and neck.
6. Take the dog to
the veterinarian only after the dog has been cooled down.