Dog days of summer can be deadly for pets

Jul 9, 2019 | Life

Hot summer days can be dangerous for dogs. A dog’s normal body temperature is about 39 C, a temperature of 41 C can be withstood for only a very short time before irreparable brain damage or even death can occur. (Jordan Young)

Abbie Jack

Summer is in full swing in Toronto and people and pets are feeling the heat throughout the city.

Humidex highs are expected to reach up to 38 C this week, according to Environment Canada.

Natalie Hillis, Veterinarian Technician Assistant at the Animal Health Laboratory at the University of Guelph, said exposure to hot temperatures are dangerous for dogs.

“Throughout the summer months we see several dogs come into post mortem that have died of overheating,” Hillis said. “This is something that can be prevented.”

Some dog breeds are more susceptible to overheating, she said.

“Dogs with scrunched up noses such as Bulldogs have more difficulty breathing. This condition is known as brachycephaly and can cause difficulty in the processing of airflow,” Hillis said. “With this restriction, an overheating brachycephalic dog will have more difficulty cooling itself down, which can become dangerous.”

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) continues to receive hundreds of reports every summer about dogs being left in cars, according to its website.

“We hear about dogs dying in cars,” Hillis said. “But owners have to keep a close eye on their dogs throughout all summer activities, not just in cars.”

Hillis encourages pet owners to give their dogs time outside to play but emphasizes the importance of knowing and watching for the dog’s limits.

Some of the extreme symptoms dog owners need to keep a watch for is excessive panting, hyperventilation, dry pale gums, disorientation, diarrhea and vomiting, she said.

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“As long as you are aware of the symptoms of overheating and are sure to provide the necessities to prevent the onset then you should be fine to carry on regular exercise,” she said.

Water is a must in the summer heat, Hillis said. She recommends always having water on hand during a walk with your dog.

Steven Nyczyk, from Hounds Around Town, a dog walking service in west Toronto, said planning a walk is key for keeping dogs cool this summer. It’s important to know where and how much shade is available, he said.

“Try to stay in the shade as much as possible and know where the big leafy trees are. Keep the sun off your dog as much as possible because the sun is what makes them feel the hottest,” Nyczyk said.

He recognizes keeping a dog off of pavement and asphalt in the city can be a challenge. Grassy areas are best but finding pavement in shade is also a good idea, Nyczyk said.

Every breed of dog is different, and will handle heat differently, which is important to know, he said.

“A bigger and furrier dog is not going to be able to withstand the heat as well as a shaved or small dog,” Nyczyk said

Anyone with questions about heat exhaustion in dogs or notice the onset of symptoms of heat exhaustion in their dog should call their veterinarian for advice, Hillis said.