General Information

Keep your dogs cool in the hot, ‘dog days’ of summer

An island chocolate Labrador retriever cools off in the calm waters off Springer's Point, Ocracoke, NC. Photo: C. Leinbach

An island chocolate Labrador retriever cools off in the calm waters off Springer’s Point. Photo: C. Leinbach

 

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Editor’s note: On Sunday (Aug. 20), the high temperature was 86 but the “feels like” temperature was 97. The Weather Underground forecast for the week calls for sunny days, chance of thunder storms and high temperatures in the mid- and low 80s.

By Connie Leinbach

The phrase ‘dog days of summer’ has nothing to do with canines, but people who own canines need to take heed at this time of the year.

The National Geographic notes the term refers to when Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, appears in late July in the Greater Dog constellation.  To the Greeks and Romans, these days heralded the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring fever, or even catastrophe.

And, ironically, this was the case for some canines during the power outage that began Thursday, July 27, to when the island’s power was fully restored two days later via back-up generators.

Orion’s Belt points to Sirius. Graphic by earthsky.org

That Thursday until Saturday evening, temperatures were about 88 degrees, but, as is typical on high heat days, the real-feel is several degrees higher.

After visitors were evacuated and islanders received the back-up power, at least one island dog had died from the heat–a bulldog.

Island veterinarian Dr. Laura Trent said in an interview that dogs do not have sweat glands and can’t naturally cool themselves.  Dogs pant to cool themselves, but bulldogs, with their shortened snouts, can’t pant enough, she said. 

Laurie Berner Garrish reported that her golden retriever was in difficulty during those hot days and eventually she made her dog jump into a kiddie pool to cool off.

Jenny Starr said her mixed-breed dog also was in distress and that she resorted to driving her dog in her air-conditioned car.

Sometimes dogs themselves know better.

Mary Vankevich walking her dog, Lassie, in cooler weather. Photo: P. Vankevich

Peter Vankevich noted that their late dog, Lassie, who loved to walk on the beach and would jump into the Jeep with great enthusiasm, would opt out if she had recently been on the beach on a hot day.

“Any temperatures above 80 degrees is hard on dogs,” Trent said.

When the power was out, there wasn’t much anyone could do but keep their dogs cool and in the shade.

Cooling them down with water is the best, Trent said–even if it’s only putting their paws or legs in water.

The best practice is not to have dogs outside in the heat, including the beach, which can be even hotter.

She’s treated several visitor dogs that had seizures on the beach from the heat.

“They weren’t true seizures,” she said. “It’s more of a fainting thing.”  But she noted that, more frequently, it’s small, dark dogs she treats for heat, which may involve the introduction of intravenous fluids.

“Little dogs heat up quicker,” she said, but a dog’s ability to withstand heat depends on the thickness of their fur.

“Labs and (similar-type dogs) seem to be able to pant enough,” she said.

Walking dogs in the midday sun on hot pavements is also hard on their paws.

“I saw one dog with blisters from that,” she said.

Ice cubes are a good choice to get dogs to consume more water.

“I tell people to teach puppies to eat ice cubes,” she said.

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