Beat The Heat: Avoid Unnecessary Stress and Danger With Your Canine

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Dog in CarUnfortunately every year the news catches wind of children and dogs who have fallen victim to heat-related stress due to being locked in a vehicle exposed to sun and heat.

Ever see a dog in a locked car in parking lot?  Did they look warm?  Panting and staring at you as you walk by?  Well the issue of leaving canines and children in vehicles while their caregivers run to do that “quick” errand is not a new one.  In fact, it seems every year we are reminded of why this can be such a dangerous thing.

Studies looking into what happens inside a locked vehicle are well documented these days.  Concerned by continuing cases of human and animal deaths related to being in this very scenario, researchers have been pushed to analyze the situation experimentally from a variety of angles.  Temperatures inside and out, in different spots in the car (foot well versus chair versus dash), the color of the car, the color of the interior of the car, whether or not the windows are sealed, cracked, or open to varying amounts, and also the impact of humidity and direct sunlight have been assessed in relation to the question “how warm does the inside of a car actually get”?

Some of the studies:

http://gizmodo.com/how-hot-does-it-get-inside-a-parked-car-spoiler-so-f-654302290

McLaren, C., Null, j., Quinn, J. (2005).  Heat stress from enclosed vehicles:  Moderate ambient temperature cause significant temperature rise in enclosed vehicles.  Pediatrics: 116: 109-112.  Retrieved from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/116/1/e109.full.pdf+html.  Accessed on: May. 20th, 2014.

Journal of the Louisiana State Medical Society: http://www.injuryprevention.org/states/la/hotcars/hotcars.htm

http://www.forbes.com/sites/tanyamohn/2013/07/31/dont-leave-your-child-alone-in-a-car/

What is the take-away message from these and other studies? That regardless of the above variables (or excuses)… it is “really” warm out, or only “moderately” warm,  whether you park your white car, with cloth interior in the direct sun, or your dark-coloured car with its black interior in the shade with the windows down, vehicles act much like an oven, quickly trapping heat inside, causing temperatures to rise very quickly into a dangerous zone.  Compound this scenario with the inability of both young children and canines to thermoregulate like an adult human does (who would still also find themselves in a very dangerous situation), and what you think is “only a 5 minute errand” could turn into a life altering decision.

The best thing to do is plan ahead.  We tell our clients “set yourself up for success“.  Make sure you plan out your day to avoid having to leave your canine unattended in a vehicle to just avoid “it” and the dangers all together.  Ensure you understand your municipalities laws and bylaws surrounding leaving animals unattended as different locations have developed varying levels of enforcement and punishment schedules to attack the issue and prevent it from occurring.  Don’t take any chances by thinking that because you have parked in the shade, the inside of the vehicle won’t superheat.  For those of us up in the Great White North, vehicles can also act like refrigerators on cold, wintery days, where hypothermia can be a factor.  Either way, taking a risk to save a few minutes isn’t worth becoming one of the statistics.  There is always a way to keep things positive for both you and your canine, so keep things safe, and keep them cool.  #caninesbydesign

Don’t Believe Me?  Watch this video done by a veterinarian.

Don’t Sweat It: Dog Hydration and Thermoregulation

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BerginU Masters Student’s Canine Beach Trip!

Continued change in the season brings with it renewed hope, and usually a blitz of people getting out, enjoying the public parks, and making up for the past few months of cool weather.

It is important that as we venture out, we remember that our furry friends will be noticing the heat as well, and it is important to take a few precautions to make sure everyone has great outing!

Water:

Just as we need to stay hydrated, it is equally as important for canines to as well. An easy way to see if your canine is getting dehydrated is to check their gums. Dull, sticky, pale or bright red gums can suggest dehydration, and wet, slippery gums is a good sign that your pup is still hydrated (NOTE: check before they take a big drink of water).

Pack enough water for both of you. This way neither of you has to risk ingesting the bacteria and pathogens that can be found in stagnant and even flowing water if you find yourselves in need of a beverage. If you aren’t fond of the idea of sharing a water bottle, bring one, or a couple, for each of you! Your furry little buddy can carry his or her own weight, so try using a properly sized canine carry pack. I always pack too much water as I want to make sure Zoom has plenty. I like to pack at least 2-3 liters with me for just him (78lb) if we are planning a beach day or a longer day in the sun.

Heat:

Canines thermoregulate slightly differently than humans do. To put it simply, they aren’t as efficient at getting rid of excess heat and therefore can overheat! Humans have sweat glands distributed over their bodies. When our internal temperatures reach an unhealthy level, we sweat, bringing a process called evaporative cooling into play, helping to lower those temps back down.  Canines shed heat this way too, but through the surface of their tongue, the pads of their feet, and under heavy breathing, they can even use the surface area of their lungs to promote cooling. To compound the issue, our little buddies are also covered in fur. While fur works well as an insulator and will actually help keep the surface area of the skin cool in the summer and warm in the winter, dark colored fur works just like a black t-shirt and can promote heat absorption from the sun.  The same goes for particular breeds with duel density fur and really thick coats.  Once the body warms up from sun or exercise, the fur will actually impede the cooling process and keep them warmer than you would want them to be. This means as caregivers, we need to make sure that our canines don’t get too warm. Along with bringing water, make sure there is shade for your canine to avoid direct sunlight. Bring a beach umbrella in the car to provide semi-portable shade. This is also useful if you are trying to avoid your canine laying in long grass during tick season!  Also, bring a bandana (wrap it around your pups water bottle) with you that you can soak in water and tie around your dogs neck. Wrapping a cold, wet bandana around their neck helps cool the blood going to the brain through the carotid artery. This is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to help cool your dog off if there isn’t a nice lake or ocean nearby to take a cool dip in.

I will end today’s blog with a shameless product plug. With Zoom being a black lab who seems to run on the warmer side, living in California while going to school posed some challenges to keep him cool. While he loves his “kiddie pool cool-downs” in the backyard, we can’t bring the pool with us, so I tried to find an alternative. A forward thinking company called Ruffwear has come out with a cool product called the Swamp CoolerCooling Vest, which promotes evaporative cooling.  By soaking the product in water before use, you create a very large surface for evaporative cooling to work through that canines weren’t able to utilize before.  It comes in multiple sizes and helps you to ensure your canine is keeping cool on those hot summer runs and play sessions by being light in colour to help reflect those warm sun rays.   And if it starts to dry out, soak it again and off you go!

Being prepared is part of Setting Up For Success, and keeping things positive! Now slather on that sunscreen and go have some fun in the sun!! #caninesbydesign