Keep dogs cool through the summer
Wow! The real feel temperature in Hamilton today was 102F (38.9C). I can believe it as we drive around the island helping animals, jumping in and out of an air-conditioned truck and drinking gallons of water to keep hydrated. It is certainly hot.
So, in this hot and humid weather, spare a thought for the dogs out there. They are dressed up in a fur coat, which they can’t remove, with a very limited ability to sweat, (just a little though their paw pads) and with heat exchange through the mouth (panting) as their only real option for cooling their body temperature.
Dogs can cool themselves down through panting by evaporating water in their mouths and across their tongue, which cools them off. Panting helps dogs regulate body temperature because it causes air to flow over the dog’s wet mucous membranes in its mouth and nose. The evaporation of water from these areas will lower a dog’s core body temperature.
There are some breeds that have a harder time with the hot weather than others. The thicker coated breeds such as huskies and Bernese mountain dogs, whose coats are designed for snow and ice, can really struggle with the high temperature and humidity in Bermuda.
Breeds with a short compact face, such as pugs, boxers and bulldogs have a harder time cooling down than a longer nosed breed, because their heat exchange is hindered by their shortened face. They are therefore more prone to overheating. Of all the dogs we have seen for overheating this summer, the vast majority of them have been short-faced breeds.
The best time to walk dogs at this time of year is early in the morning, around 6am, before the earth has had time to heat up too much. Having said this, it may be best to not walk them at all if they are a high-risk breed. No dog ever died from missing a walk, but they certainly have from going out in the heat.
Even the water does not give much relief at this time of year because the water temperature is often higher than the air temperature. So, be wary of your swimming dog, they can easily overheat too.
If you’re feeling hot and sweaty, your dog is hotter still. Take them into the air conditioning, give them an ice-cold drink of water and, if you are worried, call the vet. Once a dog starts to overheat, you have a small window of opportunity to cool them down before long-lasting damage can be done.
Save those lovely long walks for the cooler weather when you can both enjoy them fully. Don’t worry, winter is on its way, so enjoy these lazy, hazy days of summer, but keep your fur babies out of the heat.
• Lucy Richardson graduated from Edinburgh University in 2005. She started CedarTree Vets in August 2012 with her husband, Mark. They live at the practice with their two children, Ray and Stella, and their dog, two cats and two guinea pigs. Dr Lucy is also the FEI national head veterinarian for Bermuda