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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Check your Pets for Heat Stroke and Cold Weather Stress Hypothermia

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Check your Pets for Heat Stroke
Overheating or Chilled Dog and Cat Advice

With extreme heat breaking records nationwide I thought it would be a good idea to tell you how you can check your dogs for overheating before, during and after training.

1. Never work or train your dog in the heat of the day, if you avoid the heat so should your dog.

Wait to do training at dusk or dawn when the ground is better suited for tracking. (More on this aspect of scent work coming in a future post)

When the weather is hot or chilly and icy outside, we often wonder if our outdoor pets are comfortable and we should check on outdoor pets often during any extreme weather conditions.

In training and working outdoors the weather can affect a dog's performance and should be taken into consideration while working with the dog.

2. When working with scent dogs the weather can affect the movement and action of the particles of scent making reading the dog more difficult when the handler does not adjust the search in order to give the dog a better chance at finding the scent.

By adjusting the search I mean, for instance, waiting until a cooler part of the day to begin tracking.

I'll be writing more about how to adjust the search for the dog to preform better in later posts and in tips that will be included in the Family Disaster Dog newsletter you can sign up for at the top right of the home page.

Not only can the weather affect how your dog works and when you should train your dog but most importantly with currents temperatures breaking heat records, the heat can cause a heat stroke that can kill your pet. Just like extreme cold can use up your dog's energy resources keeping warm to the point of your dog suffering without you realizing it until it is to late.

Photo by A.Higgins

3. While it is true that dogs and cats have fur coats that insulate them from extreme weather they can become stressed by the weather just like we do. Older, younger pets and animals that are kept in a heated or air conditioned home are especially prone to stress during extreme weather.

The amount of cold or heat an animal can take depends on the animal's internal comfort zone due to the environment they live in and not the breed of the animal.

Animals have to acclimate to new climate changes and this means their body has to make internal adjustments and the body has to have time to get use to making this adjustment in order to stay comfortable.

4. If the body is not given the time to adjust to the climate changes then the body goes into shock, this can happen quickly when the animal is working or slowly if the animal is resting.

All of a sudden you might find your dog or cat panting and unable to stand, they will get worst and can die if the temperature of the body is not brought back a comfortable level fast.

Either extreme reaction to the climate is treated the same. You have to reverse or bring the animal back from the extreme. If to hot, then you must cool them. If to cold, then you must warm them.

Below is how you can check your pets and livestock to see if the animal is experiencing shock due to a heat stroke or extreme cold which will result in hypothermia or freezing to death.

The steps below will work to check your animals to see if the body temperature is chilled or overheating.

Step 1

Look at your animas often in extreme weather and do a visual physical assessment, in other words, look your animals over closely from afar and see if anything looks unusual or abnormal.

This is done from afar to avoid disturbing the natural state of the animal for a better observation. If you are to close, the animal will change its stance, mood, or stop what its doing.

In the heat, look for excessive panting. If the tongue of the dog or cat is rolling up at the end when they pant the animal is overheating.

If the tongue is laying flat and dripping wet they are okay. As they get hotter the tongue will start to dry out and roll inwards to catch fluid and the tip will turn up.

This Old English Sheepdog is panting normal and smiling.

Dogs, cats and rabbits sweat from the pads of the feet, the nose and when panting and there's no need to worry if your pet is panting in the normal way.

Normal panting is not a bad sign that means your dog is over sweating, they pant when they are excited, hungry and happy too.

Panting is a sign of trouble when normal turns abnormal panting as outlined above due to loss of body fluids.

In cold weather, an animal that is chilled will seek warmth or curl up as small as possible to converse heat and energy. If the dog is working they will continue to work until they drop from exhaustion.

The only sign will be excessive panting which can be overlooked as a tired dog.

This is why it's important even in the cold to rest your dog and offer them water every 2 hours while tracking or working. A dog can overheat and perish within this 2 hour time period.

Step 2

After you have checked your dog's panting.

Feel your dog or cat's ears and see if they feel abnormally warm or cold.

The ear is a good indicator of the animal’s body temperature.

Step 3

Next place your hand between the leg and body at the arm pit (or leg pit, in the case of our four legged friends). This is the best place to get an accurate reading of the animal's body temperature.

You can feel if the animal feels to hot or to cold to touch and this can tell you, if the animal is overheated or to cold.

An animal's body temperature is slightly warmer then ours and it's best to feel a normal animal and compare the warmth you feel to a sick animal if you do not know what normal feels like in your pet.

Step 4

The third place to check is the stomach by placing your palm against the animal's belly. Again feel to see if the animal is to hot or to cold. A chilled puppy or kitten means death is not far away, warm them immediately.

Step 5

By checking all three areas you can come to a conclusion on the condition of the temperature of your pet's body.

Normal Panting in the winter-Yes she has a hat on!
photo by A.Higgins

What to Do

What you do is critical to the survival of the animal that is going into shock from extreme heat or cold. You must warm or cool them as soon as possible and by any means available.

1. If the animal is working at a quick pace, slow them down slowly.

But Do Not stop all of a sudden when a dog is in full gear. Make sure you take the time to slow them down slowly to cool off gradually, similar to how a horse is cooled down after a hard ride, so should a dog.

2. Offer an overheating animal water asap but do not let them drink to much water at once. Only offer a hot dog a handful of not to cold water at a time.

A few handfuls of cool but not cold water is enough or they will over drink or gulp air leading to bloat and colic which can have serious consequences.

3. If your animal is overheating, you can place wet rags, towels or ice wrapped in baggies around the neck behind the ears, under the forelegs (underarm area where there is no hair) and under the backside upon the stomach.

4. Continue applying ice or wet towels until the animal cools down to normal behavior and relaxes their panting. A water hose, the bath tub, a lake, stream or pond is the next best place for an overheated pet.

5. Keep them wet but do not let them drink the water freely, until they are acting normal again.

Serious Consequences of Heatstroke or Freezing Pets

An animal can die within a very short time, if left unattended in extreme heat, within an hour or less under extreme conditions. Do not leave your animals in direct sunshine where they can't find shade and water.

Do not bring a wet animal into an air conditioned building or they can get chilled and develop hypothermia.

What to do If a Pet is Freezing

If your animal is ever to cold to the touch then warm them quickly any way you can.

Use blankets, towels, clothing or your own body heat in emergency situations. Take them inside a warm room and keep them contained so they can recover.

Offer lukewarm water a 1/2 cup at a time. They may not drink if they are very cold.

In Cold or Hot Weather Dehydration is Possible

Caution, if you cannot lift up the animal's lip easily, if the lip is dry and sticking to the gums or other lip then this is a sign they are dehydrated.

Check to see if the animal is dehydrated by lifting up the animal's skin between your fingers then let the skin go.

If the skin pops back into place then the animal is okay but if the skin stands up for a moment or longer the animal is lacking fluids.

They need fluid right away and they may be feeling to chill or exhausted to drink.

In this case, you can wet the lips and mouth with water, slowly get the dog to take water by dripping some in between the teeth and wetting the lips.

Only give a little bit of water at a time but do so very often, at least every  10-15 minutes for the first hour.

You should see a recover begin within an hour or two, at the most. If not, get your pet to the doctors!

You can add a little bit of sugar to the water with a pinch of salt to help the dog recover faster, you can also give children's Pedialyte fluid drink or Gatorade to dehydrated dogs and cats to help them recover.

I always carried powder Gatorade with Sue and I, she liked the grape flavor best but would only drink this when she was overheated, not thirsty.

A hiker in the woods can walk right pass a water source without even knowing it but a dog will smell the water.

Other things you can do to keep your dogs and outdoor pets cool.

I always give my outdoor dogs a plastic swimming pool in the summer and the pups often lay in the feed bowls to keep cool.

A hose hung high above kennels and pens, out of the dog's reach with mist fittings or many small holes poked in the hose works well to cool off outdoor dogs.

I usually go outside once or twice a day to hose down the trees and roofs of the kennel buildings and yards around the dogs to cool off the whole area when the heat of summer goes over 85 degrees. This works for other outdoor livestock or pets, like rabbits or penned up chickens who cannot get out of the hot pen to seek cooler shelter.

Sue and I

Incredible Sue quite often took us off the person's trail we were following in the heat of the Arkansas summer. At first I asked her, what are you doing?

Each time she would find a creek or small stream hidden in the brush we would have otherwise passed right by. What a nice break this was on the hot 100 plus degree days.

Sue always amazed me when she taught me how smart she was. We would jump in, splash around a bit then her nose would go up in the air and away we would go, back on the person's trail.

Sue always knew exactly what she was doing and if you learn to watch and read your animals then you can be taught by them just as easily as you teach them.

Be sure to subscribe updates and new posts. I will be including tips and tricks for working with your family search and rescue dogs, along with other general information about dog care and training.

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Author Amber Higgins

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Welcome UK and worldwide visitors and friends to Family Disaster Dogs online! Although I'm an American author and dog professional the worldwide web has given me the opportunity to connect with some wonderful folks who have contributed pictures for my books. The "Start Mantrailing" book features RRI K9 North Scotland trained Search and Rescue Dog "Amber" on the cover and her teammates training in the book, plus American dogs using my training methods. A portion of sales of the Start Mantrailing book or copies were donated to RRI North Scotland. The children's picture book "My Puppy Can Find Me" has my daughter and bloodhound as illustrations by UK cartoonist Scotty King. You can find the books on Amazon UK or use the contact page to order from me. When you click the links will take you to your own county pages of this site.

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