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Remember ‘fur coats’ when assessing pet’s summer heat risk

Rio, our 2-year-old German Shepherd “puppy” is still extremely active.

She loves to play and has two old soles from Ray’s shoes that she insists he toss in the yard so she can chase and fetch.

It’s debatable whether she will bring it back to us, but if she wants it thrown for her, she reluctantly returns it and drops it for another go.

The bad thing is that she won’t quit and she never gets her fill of chasing.

We worry, especially in the summer heat, because she is obsessed with chasing these shoe soles, not a ball like a normal dog and doesn’t know when to give it a rest. (Although not recommended by trainers, we gave the soles to her shortly after her arrival as a pup so she’d stop chewing actual shoes, which worked!)

But now Ray has to forcibly coax her inside for a drink (even though we now keep a water bowl outside, too) and to cool down in the air conditioning.

Our other dogs are content to spend the day on the couch sprawled out in front of the air conditioners. Rio, not so much.

Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are nothing to mess with for dogs.

Dogs sweat by panting. They are able to expend some heat through their paw pads through sweat glands but not nearly enough to help cool their bodies completely. When panting isn’t enough, according to petmd.com, a dog’s body temperature rises, which can be very dangerous — even fatal — if not addressed quickly.

Excessive panting and signs of discomfort indicate overheating in dogs. A dog overheating may also be unable or unwilling to move around.

Other signs of heatstroke in dogs include drooling, reddened gums, vomiting, diarrhea, mental dullness or loss of consciousness, uncoordinated movement and collapse.

Some dogs are more prone to developing heat exhaustion, especially dogs who are older, overweight or brachycephalic (pugs, bulldogs and other flat-faced breeds).

Dogs with thick fur, short noses or those suffering from medical conditions, such as laryngeal paralysis, and obesity are predisposed to heatstroke.

Even dogs that enjoy constant exercise and playtime – like working dogs, such as Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds – should be closely monitored for symptoms of heatstroke, especially on hot days.

Immediately remove a dog in distress from the hot environment. Put your dog in a bathtub or find a hose with cold water and hose your dog down. Or place a towel soaked in cold water on his back. Run a cool shower over the whole body, especially the head and neck, but being careful not to get water in the mouth or nose.

Call your veterinarian or the nearest emergency animal clinic and tell them you are on your way! They will tell you what to do next, based on your dog’s symptoms and how far away you are.

Let your dog drink as much cool water as he wants without forcing him to drink.

Not to be a nervous Nancy, but heatstroke in dogs can cause unseen problems, such as swelling of the brain, kidney failure, intestinal bleeding and abnormal clotting of blood. It’s serious.

It seems redundant to have to mention not to take or leave your dogs in the car during hot weather, even if you park in the shade or use the air conditioner. A car can become a greenhouse within minutes. Once your dog is overheated, they have a very hard time cooling themselves down.

I always tell people who object to my precautions to please don a big faux fur coat in the heat and leave it on. And, don’t forget how easily the sensitive padding on a dog’s foot can be to burn on extremely hot surfaces.

If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pets.

Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode is the author of the new children’s book, “Oakley’s Great Cape Escape,” as well as, “Have Dog Will Blog,” editor of the Central PA Pets magazine and director of the Central PA Pet Expo. She can be contacted at ahanna@altoonamirror.com or by mail: Paws and Reflect, c/o Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode, Altoona Mirror, 301 Cayuga Ave., Altoona, PA 16602.

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