Just Like People, Florida’s Heat Can Harm Your Dogs

    By: Kayla Brinkerhoff



    Ahh, summertime. The birds begin chirping, the bees are buzzing, and here in Florida…the humidity just doesn’t seem to stop rising once March settles in.


    The dog days of summer (pun: definitely intended) can be an excellent time to squeeze in some extra adventures with your pup; swimming, hiking, backpacking, camping, the list stretches on like the sunset in July. As a responsible dog owner, it’s important to know the hazards that can affect your dog during the hottest months of the year – this helps you prevent and recognize the signs and symptoms of some sneaky summertime risks.


    Let’s go over some basics and how to treat these issues should they arise.


    1. Heat Stroke


    Keeping your dog cool while out and about is critical. Dogs do not sweat through their skin, instead they release heat by panting and sweating a little on their nose and between the pads of their toes. If a dog cannot expel enough heat, their internal temperature begins to rise. This condition can be fatal if not treated quickly enough.

    The signs of heat stroke are: 

    Vigorous panting

    Dark red gums

    Lying down or unwilling to get up

    Thick saliva

    Dizziness or disorientation

    Tacky or dry mucus membranes

    You can prevent heat stroke by keeping your dog inside during the hottest parts of the day or providing a cool, shaded area to relax. Swimming, cooling mats, or other cooler activities are good choices as well. Be sure to keep your dog hydrated.

    If you suspect heat stroke, move your dog out of the sun and heat as quickly as possible. Begin cooling your dog with cool water – DO NOT use ice or very cold water, as this could cause blood vessels to constrict, and causing the internal temp to actually rise, as well as potentially causing hypothermia. Offer your dog cool water, but don’t force him to drink. Be sure he doesn’t consume large amounts at a time. If you suspect his condition has gotten out of hand, call your vet immediately.

    2. Parasites


    Here in the swamps, there is plenty of standing water. And we all know that means a lot of breeding area for little annoying pests who just looooove our dogs (maybe more than we do!)
    Use preventative care for your dog, especially as we get into these summer months – they are prime time for fleas, ticks, mosquitos, chiggers, gnats, ants… ugh. And all of these creatures can carry harmful diseases. Your vet will know which preventative treatment is right for your dog. 


    As well as proactively caring for your dog’s skin, feeding a high quality diet (without preservatives and chemicals) will build your dog’s immune system, making him less susceptible to an infestation.
    Always check your dog after adventuring outside. Remember, when removing ticks, use rubber gloves and apply rubbing alcohol to the area. Using tweezers, pull straight up, you need to make sure that the head and mouth parts are out of the skin. Flushing or throwing ticks away does not kill them; the best method is to hold on to them in a jar with some rubbing alcohol to take to your vet for testing if your dog falls ill.


    Keeping your dog well groomed and your house frequently clean will ensure these pests don’t make it into the home.


    3. Leptospirosis


    Not quite as common as the others, but still just as important. Stagnant water is a frequent source for lepto bacteria to grow in. The disease is contracted through body fluids or tissue and can then be passed on through direct (bites) or indirect (food and water sources, etc) contact. Symptoms of lepto include: Vomiting/shaking, anorexia, lethargy, increased water intake, and tender muscles. If you suspect lepto, get your dog to the vet as soon as possible, as this can be life threatening.


    4. Burned Pads


    It’s important to remember that our furry friends do not have access to a pair of Nikes to protect their feet while out on walks. Walk your dog in the early morning or evening when the asphalt has cooled off, to prevent scorched pads. Other options include: walking in the grass or wearing protective booties while outside. Check your dog’s feet when you return inside to be sure that they are in good condition. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t hold your hand to the walking surface for more than 30 seconds without having to remove it, it’s too hot for your dog to be walking on. 


    5. Dehydration


    Keeping  dogs properly hydrated is a must. Your four legged friends need to get plenty of water while out playing, just like you and I do. Pick up a collapsible bowl and bring along a jug of water whenever you’re packing up to head out for the day’s activities. Special backpacks are also on the market which allow Fido to carry his own water supply and treats, but make sure he doesn’t get too overworked while doing so. 


    Summertime can be an excellent time for our dogs, so long as we know the risks and take proactive measures to keep them healthy and safe. 
    PLEASE do not to leave your dog in a locked car – even for a few minutes – as the temperature rises extremely rapidly.     


    Keep them hydrated while out playing, and make sure they get ample time to relax as well. Shaving dogs is always an option for extra cooling power, but be sure to speak with a professional groomer about your dog’s individual needs, as some dog’s coats do not grow back properly if shaved. 


    Have some fun out there, East Orlando, and as always – stay safe and healthy in our beautiful sunshine state!


    Kayla Brinkerhoff is a Dog Fitness Specialist at Groom, Grub and Belly Rub in Avalon Park