I live in Yucatan. Yucatan is hot. It is not hot like normal places. No. Yucatan is hot in a way that is impossible to explain. You have to experience it. No matter how many times someone tells you it is hot in Yucatan, you will not be able to comprehend what that means until you have spent a summer here.
I want to help you to keep your dogs safe and cool. Heat stroke is a thing, a very horrible and serious thing, and it can kill your dog quickly if you do not know how to prevent it or deal with it if it happens. Dogs can also suffer from badly burned paws on the streets if we go out when the thermal temperature is in the 50s. Yes, I said the 50s. And yes, I am talking in Celsius.
What is This Heat Stroke You Speak of?
Heat stroke and heat exhaustion can happen to humans and animals. The fancy word for it is hyperthermia. The simple definition is that you are too freaking hot. Because dogs do not sweat through their skin like humans do, you have very little time once you have recognised the signs of heat stroke to save your dog’s life. It is that serious.
What happens during heat stroke is once a dog is no longer able to expel heat from their body, their temperature starts to rise. This can very quickly lead to irreversible organ damage. Before a dog goes into a state of heat stroke, they will have already been suffering from heat exhaustion.
Ut Oh! I Think We May Have Overdone it – Signs of Heat Stroke
- Excessive panting or strained breathing.
- Dry and dark red or very pale gums.
- Thick saliva and excessive drooling.
- Glazed eyes.
- Difficulty urinating or urinating blood.
- Stumbling or staggering.
- Unable to stand.
If you have been out in the hot weather with your dog, or even exercising with them when it is warm outside, any of these signs, especially more than one of them, means you must get your dog to the vet – fast.
My Dog Needs Me to Help Him Now! – How to Help a Dog Suffering from Heat Stroke
You may not be able to get to a vet immediately, so it is important to know the things you can do to help your dog cool down safely.
- Immediately get your dog into the shade or, if possible, indoors to a cool area.
- Use luke warm or cool water to wipe their faces and bodies. Do not use cold water or ice.
- Keep wetting their ears and paws.
- Wet a towel in luke warm or cool water and place it on their head, neck and chest. Replace them when they get warm.
- Use a fan if you have access too one.
- Once they have started to get more comfortable offer them small amounts of luke warm or slightly cool water. Do not offer cold water or ice. Do not let them drink a lot of water all in one go.
- Once they become more comfortable switch off the fan and remove the wet towels.
- Get them to the veterinary surgery as quickly as possible.
I Do Not Like This One Bit! – How Do I Prevent my Dog From Getting Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke is a terrible thing and it is far better to prevent it than to have to try to save your dog. There are lots of sensible things that you can do to keep your dog safe and cool and, as I am going to share those with you so that your dog can be nearly as cool as I am.
- If your dog is elderly, overweight, brachycephalic (boxers/bull breeds/pugs), has a chronic disease, or a dense coat, it may be more sensitive to the heat so treat them with extra care.
- Do not exercise your dog between 10am – 4pm during the months of April-September outside, especially if there is no shade or somewhere to swim and cool off.
- If you have to take your dog out during the hottest part of the day, do not walk them on hot surfaces, especially the street or they can burn their paws badly. Try to stay in the shade, give them plenty of water breaks, and frequent rests. If your dog is not as responsive when it is hot, do not get frustrated. It can be hard for them to think properly, especially if they are panting.
- Keep in mind that hot dogs can be grumpy, so keep them protected from strangers or small children.
- Use some of the great products available now for dogs to cool them off such as cooling coats, cooling mats, and cooling bandanas.
- Never, ever, ever, ever leave your dog in a car when it is hot outside. You might as well stick him in the microwave. Just do not do it.
- If your dog lives outside, make sure that they always have access to shade throughout the day. The sun moves and so something that may be shady in the morning, may offer no protection in the afternoon.
- Always give your dog access to fresh, clean, drinking water. Many dogs suffer from kidney problems in Yucatan and that may often be caused by and certainly is aggravated by dehydration. If you have recently brought your dog to Yucatan from another climate, it may take them a while to acclimatise, so encourage them to drink often.
What About My Dog’s Thick Coat?
Well, human, how would you feel if you had to wear a thick fur coat in hot weather? Thick, double coated dog coats are designed to keep heat in and cool out. So, yes, dogs’ double coats are great insulators, but do they keep your dog cool? This is controversial because for a very long time, groomers and dog breeders have been arguing that clipping dogs coats will make them suffer from the heat even more, but is this a case of mythology centred around form and fashion over function?
According to Mia Overnas, a former veterinary nurse who is now a respected dog groomer and dog grooming educator, who writes in her The Educated Groomer blog TO SHAVE OR NOT TO SHAVE – A LOOK INTO THE LITERATURE ABOUT DOGS THERMAL REGULATION,COAT GROWTH AND MORE……
“The coating of the body – with feathers/hair is there to insulate and prevent heat loss and to protect the skin. The hair insulates and prevents the heat from leaving the body – and you see an example of that on dogs that is from cold environments – they have small ears that are very hairy – and on the opposite – dogs from hot environments have large smooth-haired ears to make it easier for heat to evaporate from the skin.”
Her blog is very detailed with a lot of science and studies. It is well worth reading if you want to be informed about how clipping your dog’s coat may or may not help them stay cool. She explains that there are many factors that will determine the best option or your dog, but if you are not too hung up about the way their coat might look, and they have a thick coat, you certainly may want to consider it. Especially if they have medical conditions, are overweight, or elderly. Yucatan is exceptionally hot, so many practices relating to dog coats may be different given the intensity of the heat and the humidity.
Dr. Melissa Starling, Melissa Starling Postdoctoral Fellow, Animal Behaviour and Welfare Research Group at The University of Sydney also had some interesting comments on the subject.
“There is a lot of talk about how bad it is to shave a double-coated dog because they apparently need that coat for insulation. Honestly, we have practically no evidence of how a full coat affects thermoregulation in warm temperatures. Probably to some degree, natural insulation can reduce heating and reduce the intensity of direct heat at least in the short term, but just like any insulation, it has its limits. This scientist doubts that it is by chance that dogs from warm climates and bred for intense bursts of activity are often single-coated. FWIW, Kivi [her own dog]has never been shaved, but we don’t live in the sub-tropics.”
If you do opt for clipping your dog, just do not overdo it because sunburn is also a thing that dogs suffer if their coat is too short. If you do not want to clip them, do make sure to brush them at least once a week, if not more often. That will help to thin out their coat and make them more comfortable when it is hot.
I may only be a dog, but I am quite clever. It looks like there needs to be some serious research done on dogs with thick coats in extremely hot climates. Do they give research grants to dogs? Asking for a friend.