By Susan Scofield

Recently, the Club had a run on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. The trail offered plenty of shade, and there was water in the ditches. Ditch or trailside seasonal creeks are a favorite of WA dog scooterers; water being the primary ingredient needed for a comfortable run in warmer weather. In the spring, this is available, but come summer, the ditches are dry.

On this day, the temps reached 87, a degree at which I would normally NEVER run my dogs. I learned the hard way about overheating a scooter dog, and I hope to never make that mistake again. Attentiveness to the dog and the environment and a flexible attitude is necessary under all circumstances of running dogs, but especially in stressful conditions; high temperatures accompanied by humidity being one of the worst scenarios. Often times common sense tells us to stop, but if we have driven a long ways, and are aching to run dogs, and there is pressure from the group to run, we may fail to heed our intuition and head out on the trail when really the dogs and driver ought to turn around and go home. Or, we do not stop and rest, as we should, because we want to get back to the car.

Dogs cannot sweat as humans do; they cool themselves by moving air over their moist tongue and airways through panting.

One to two hours before the run give the dog a couple cups of baited water. Baiting means to add something to the water that will encourage the dog to drink, i.e. canned cat food, tuna, or a nutritional supplement. A well hydrated dog is necessary for peak performance and for helping the dog stay cool as its metabolism rises during exertion in warm weather. Carry additional water for the dog and driver. Offer small amounts while on the trail. If possible immerse your dog in a pool or pond prior/and or during run. As they move, air will pass over their moistened body, allowing for evaporation.

Schedule the run in a shady area

Frequent stops are Mandatory

Watch for excessive panting. Watch for swelling tongue, indicating that the dog is unable to meet its cooling needs. Tongue hanging out with heavy breathing is past the need for rest. STOP and rest until breathing is normal.

Heat stroke can occur if a dog’s temperature goes above 104 degrees. The increased temperature causes a metabolic disturbance that triggers the release of chemicals that ultimately causes cell destruction. In heat stroke, the blood thickens causing stress on the heart as it attempts to pump the heavy blood through the system. Blood stagnates and eventually clots, causing tissue death. The brain, liver, and intestine are most prone to the effects of such cell destruction.

Ear flaps may be reddened.

Tongue may swell and darken

Heavy panting

Dog begins huffing and puffing or gasping for air

Dog begins to weave when it walks because of dizziness

Dog lays down or collapses and can’t get up

Dog becomes unconscious

If you determine your dog has heat stroke, it is imperative to cool the dog down! The best way is to run water over the dog, so there is always fresh water in contact. When you immerse a dog in a tub, the water trapped in the hair coat will get warm next to the dog, and act as an insulator against the cool water and cooling stops. If you can run water over the dog and place it in front of a fan that is the best. Misting the dog with water will only help if you are in a dry environment or in front of a fan.

Wet the ears, base of neck, belly, groin, under arms, under legs, base of tail and underneath the tail.

You can always put your dog in the car and turn on the air conditioner. You can offer your dogs tiny amounts of water to wet the mouth, but the dog will probably not drink…and water in the stomach does not cool the dog. When heavily panting, the dog will take in large amounts of air and this could possibly cause a condition called bloat, a serious medical condition. Misting the dog with water will only help if you also have a fan. Getting the dog wet is not enough, it needs to be cool water, and it needs to evaporate, as this is the dog’s cooling mechanism. Ice is also less effective than cool water, because it causes constriction of the blood vessels, and thus does not promote the most efficient exchange of heat. Emergency ice packs (the kind you shake to activate) are best applied to the inner thighs, under the arm, under the tail, and under the ear flaps.

Check the dog’s temp and if it is starting to drop, then you stop the cool water. This would be at 103. If you do not have a thermometer, do not stress over this, stop pouring the water over the dog, and observe it closely. Is the panting slowing, are the ears coming back up, is there less of a dazed look, is the swelling of the tongue going down, is elasticity returning to the skin? Is the dog more alert? You must stop cooling the dog BEFORE the temperature drops to normal, as it will continue dropping, and then you will enter into a hypothermic situation. Glyco-charge, Peidalyte, Gatorade, can all be given to the dog to help restore electrolytes. If your dog has come close to death in an over heating situation, please take it to your vet as soon as possible. The effects of heat exhaustion may take several days to show themselves, as tissue death of vital organs may have occurred. I can testify to the fact that once a dog has overheated, it will remain heat sensitive for life.

A completely soaked dog should not be enclosed in a plastic crate or small space without good airflow. Again, you would be putting the dog in a situation where the process of evaporation cannot effectively take place. Airflow must occur over the damp dog for cooling to take place.

Here in Washington, with my Siberian Huskies, I have a guideline for running my dogs. If I am wearing a tee shirt only, it is too warm to run my dogs. Of course, I watch the temp, feel the humidity, and observe my dogs.

Attentiveness to your dogs, knowing your dog, watching their body language is the BEST way to avoid over heating. You must be AWARE that you are the one that must recognize when to stop. The dog will run itself into a dangerous situation. Know if you have a high risk dog: Examples would be young dogs, sick dogs, overweight dogs, out of shape dogs, dogs on certain meds, short muzzled dogs such as the bully breeds, dogs with respiratory or heart conditions. Overheating can happen any time a dog is moving. Pay attention, know your dog, and trust your wisdom, and have fun on the trails.

(as seen in the LineOut Issue 07 2008)

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Heatstroke occurs when normal body mechanisms cannot keep the body's temperature in a safe range. Animals don't have the efficient cooling system (like humans who sweat) and are overheated easily. A dog with moderate heatstroke (body temperature 104-106 F) can recover within an hour if given prompt first aid. Allow the dog to drink ample cool water and walk around. Severe heat stroke (106 F) can be deadly and immediate veterinary assistance is needed.

Signs of heatstroke include; a bright red tongue, red or pale gums, thick sticky saliva, rapid panting, weakness, imbalance, vomiting, diarrhea and shock. In case of severe heatstroke, transport your dog to the veterinarian immediately. If you are not close to the veterinarian hospital and your dog is conscious, lower the temperature to at least 106 F before going to the vet. Submerging in water is recommended. If limited water is available, apply water to the belly area, groin, behind the ears, the neck and feet. Check the temperature every 5-10 minutes. Stop the cooling process once the temperature reaches 103 F. Do not allow the temperature to drop further. Keep the dog comfortable. You may need to put a blanket or towel over the dog.

Dogs with moderate heatstroke often recover without complicating health problems. Severe heatstroke can cause organ damage that might need ongoing care, such as a special diet prescribed by your veterinarian.  Dogs who suffer from heatstroke once, increase their risk for getting it again and steps must be taken to prevent heatstroke on humid days. Keep a rectal thermometer (digital or glass) in your first aid kit and use it when in doubt.

Reprinted from / by Tiffany Cain, veterinary services department, Drs Foster & Smith, Inc.


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By Becky Loveless

Your dog's feet are like the tires on your vehicle. if they are not cared for you will not get far. Get your dog used to having their feet handled. Picking up the feet, spreading the toes and looking in between. Check toenail length, keeping them clipped back is essential. If your dog has dew claws keep them short as well. It does not matter if the dog is standing or lying down. I find it easier for the first time after a run they are tired and easier to handle.

Create a habit of checking each foot after each run. Looking for pad wear, tears on the pad. Look inside the underside of the foot for splits. Practice putting on booties BEFORE you need them.

Familiarize yourself with the anatomy of the your dogs feet. This will help you understand why these things occur and how to heal injuries and perhaps prevent them.

Keep it fun; you and your dog will be pros in no time.

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