- Preventing Heat Exhaustion in Dogs and Horses in Greenville, SC
What is Heat Exhaustion?
Hyperthermia, also known more simply as "heat exhaustion," is a condition that occurs when your pet's body temperature increases too much, and they can no longer regulate that temperature. While panting or drinking water may cool a pet down under normal circumstances, heat exhaustion occurs when the usual cooling tactics are ineffective against the extreme heat your pet may be exposed to.
There are also different levels of heat exhaustion. Milder cases may be uncomfortable for your pet but can be treated at home. However, more extreme versions—such as a pet experiencing an actual heat stroke—can be life-threatening and requires immediate veterinary intervention.
The symptoms of general heat exhaustion that may be capable of being treated at home before escalating into a medical emergency are about what pet parents may expect. However, it's best for those who love their canines and horses to keep an eye out for these symptoms and learn about how they can avoid having their beloved pets experience such discomfort in the first place.
Preventing Heat Exhaustion in Dogs
Dogs regulate their body temperatures by panting rather than sweating as we humans do, making them have quite a bit more trouble controlling their body temperatures when the temperatures rise outside.
For pet parents of brachycephalic breeds (think Pugs, English Bulldogs, and Frenchies), overheating is a constant threat when our cute little fur babies run, play, and heat up their bodies. When you add hot temperatures outdoors into the mix, this becomes even more of a concern.
Although non-brachycephalic dogs may do much better with heat and exercise than our smaller, breathing-impaired friends, this does not make them exempt from the risks of overheating and dealing with heat exhaustion.
Some of the symptoms to determine if your dog is overheating include the following:
• Excessive drooling
• Racing heart
• A dry nose
• Abnormal gum color
• Dryness/stickiness of the gums
• Warm skin/fur
• Tremors or seizures
In severe cases of heat exhaustion, our poor canine companions may fall into a coma or pass away due to their bodies being unable to regulate their temperature and survive extreme overheating.
Fortunately, there are quite a few ways to prevent this tragedy. One of the best ways to avoid heat exhaustion in your dog is to educate yourself on the risks. Brachycephalic and long-haired pups are easily distinguished from more tolerant breeds, so parents of these canines must remember that their fur babies' lives are especially at stake when the temperatures start rising.
Pet parents of very old or young canines also need to keep an eye on their dogs as these age groups are much more sensitive to extreme temperatures and other environmental concerns. For those who like to exercise their dogs a lot or crate their animals for a good portion of the day, you must provide them with fresh, cool water if their environment is excessively hot. Good ventilation (for indoor pups) is necessary to help them avoid overheating.
Both indoor and outdoor canines exposed to a lot of humidity will be dealing with even more significant increases in the heat around them.
To help your dogs avoid heat exhaustion, make sure they're provided with the proper cooling measures and hydration opportunities you'd provide for yourself. Always provide them with cool water, try to keep your home cool indoors when it's hot outside, try to avoid park trips and walks when it's scorching out, and be smart about not engaging in outdoor activities (or even allowing your pup to wander and play alone in the yard) for too long when you know it's going to be hot out there.
Do not ever leave a dog in a hot car for any reason nor in a situation or location where they cannot drink something or cool down. If you're tired and overheating, they likely are too.
If your pup is showing signs of heat exhaustion despite your best efforts, you should first try to get them to a shady or cool area with good ventilation. If they cannot cool down and recover relatively quickly, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Dampening your dog's fur with cool water and either fanning them or placing them near a blowing fan should help level them out as you wait for medical advice from your vet or are waiting to take them. However, when cooling your dog down, there are adverse effects to cooling them down too much, so it's best to follow your veterinarian's instructions over the phone.
If you're up to checking your dog's body temperature yourself, you can do this with a rectal thermometer for pets. A temperature of about 105°F requires you to assist them in cooling down. Still, you do not want to decrease their temperature below 103°F due to health risks that they are unable to regulate their own body temperature properly.
Checking your pet's temperature is a great way to keep a close eye on how they're managing the condition, and it will also help to ensure they do not reach the critical and life-threatening bodily temperature range of 107°F to 109°F.
Preventing Heat Exhaustion in Horses
Whether your horses are stabled most of the day indoors or out roaming the pasture, avoiding the heat of summer is a constant struggle, especially living in a city like Greenville, South Carolina. Many horses tend to find shade or drink some extra water when it's hot out, but some extreme weather conditions make it nearly impossible to cool down.
Horses enduring any form of heat stress will begin displaying various symptoms that the heat is too much for them to handle.
Heat exhaustion may become evident in horses that show some of the following signs:
• Stumbling or weakness
• Signs of dehydration (decreased or nonexistent urination, sunken eyes, reduced skin elasticity)
• Hot skin (or unusually cold skin, in some cases)
• Excessive or insufficient amounts of sweating
• A rapid heart rate that doesn't improve or slow down
• Quickened breathing
When symptoms become persistent or severe, this can turn into a life-threatening situation for your equine companion. Suppose your horse begins displaying any of the above symptoms and has become overheated. In that case, you should immediately cease any physical activity (riding or otherwise exercising) and move them to a cool, shady spot to rest.
Once your horse has settled down and is out of the sun and heat, call your equine veterinarian as soon as possible to let them know what is taking place.
To help alleviate your horse's symptoms and help them cool down while you wait for the vet to arrive, you should gradually try to wet their body with cool (not cold) water and fan them, if possible. If there is a nice breeze while standing or lying in the shade, that's even better, and you'll be able to focus more on dampening and cooling their body down.
Be sure to scrape off any of the water that may be sitting on top of their coat, as you want to get off any of the water that's absorbed the horse's excess body heat to continue helping cool them down. You should provide overheated horses with small amounts of water too, but you'll need to give this to them in periodic intervals and not all at once, so it isn't a shock to their system. To prevent heat exhaustion and make sure your horse is as safe and comfortable in the summer heat as possible, there are a few main things you'll need to keep in mind.
First, stay aware of the heat index when your horse is outdoors. This is a more accurate estimate of what it will feel like outside based on the outdoor heat, humidity level outdoors, and other factors. This is essential for determining how much heat your equine companion will be dealing with, and you should adjust their exercise level and exposure based on this heat reading.
Next, be aware of your horse's health and determine if they are at risk of being more sensitive to hot temperatures. Horses that are older, overweight, or not well conditioned will typically be more likely to struggle with managing their body temperature when exposed to extreme heat or exercise in hot conditions. Additionally, breeds that are adapted to cooler climates that have been relocated may struggle to adjust to a new environment with hotter temperatures.
Lastly, ensure that your horse has the appropriate means of cooling off. Be sure your property or stables have adequate shade as well as fresh, cool water for your companion to stay hydrated.
If your horse's boarding area isn't well ventilated or they are constantly exposed to the sun, you'll need to determine what changes you can make to provide them with a safe and cooler environment for enduring the hot summer months.
Many horse parents provide their horses with salt licks throughout the year, which is especially important during increased temperatures to allow the animals to receive proper hydration and electrolytes and stave off dehydration.
When to Contact a Veterinarian
If your dog is experiencing excessive levels of panting, drooling, symptoms of digestive distress, reddened gums, struggling with consciousness, collapsing, or having trouble with their coordination or ability to move, this is indicative of a heat stroke and will require immediate medical attention.
Suppose your equine companion's skin becomes dry and hot. If you also notice an increase in body temperature and rapid breathing, seek veterinary care immediately to begin treatment before collapse or - even worse - the results of a heat stroke.
Overall, provide your dogs and horses with the same means of staying cool and hydrated as you would. Your pets should have plenty of opportunities to keep themselves feeling well despite the excessive heat and sunshine outside in our area. However, be sure to keep in mind the equine need for additional salt and a dog's need for proper ventilation and air circulation to keep their panting efforts most effective.
Here at Happy Paws, we can do regular drop-ins to care for your dogs or horses and ensure that their cooling and hydration needs are met. Suppose you've got a summer trip coming up or simply have to be away for a while for other reasons and are worried that your companions may struggle during these hot summer months. In that case, you can throw us a line and let us ease your worries with our wide range of pet sitting and animal care services.