How hot is too hot?It is not just extremely high temperatures that puts your dog at risk but also combinations of high temperatures and high humidity. A handy reference is to add the ambient temperature with the humidity percentage to get an idea of whether or not it is safe for your dog. For example, if the afternoon temperature is 95 F and the humidity is at 70%, you get a combined number of 165. Any number over 150 indicates you should pay close attention to your dog as there is a danger of heat stress. Any number over 180 and your dog is at high risk for heat stroke. Monitor your dog closely when conditions are prime for heat stress.
What are my dog’s Risk factors?- Prior incidence of heat stress or heat stroke
- Improper athletic conditioning
What should I watch for? The earliest signs of heat stress are:
- Excessive Panting
- Thick Saliva with a dry tacky mouth
- Dark pink/red tongue lolling out of mouth
- Decreased performance
And if I miss the early signs? As heat stress progresses to heat exhaustion, you will see:
- Increased heart rate
- Excessive panting continues
- Body temperature continued rising above 102 F.
- Disorientation (no longer responding to cues, appearing anxious, or staring)
What can I do to prepare my k9 athlete to compete in excessive heat?While we are still determining what normal is for many k9 athletes during activity, we do know that a properly conditioned and fit k9 athlete has physiologic and metabolic differences from the companion dog. Conditioning should occur months prior to competition in strenuous sports to ensure that your dog’s body is at its peak ability to accommodate the environment during the exercise.
Key points to remember:
- Stay hydrated (but avoid drinking too much) - rule of thumb 1.5 oz per 10 pounds of body weight before and after strenuous exercise.
- Reduce stress.
- Begin Fitness and conditioning months prior to competition.
- Monitor your dog closely when conditions are prime for heat stress.
- Seek veterinary care for heat exhaustion immediately.
Conditioning and Training in the Canine Athlete
Robert L. Gillette, DVM, MSE, DACVSMR
Animal Health & Performance Program, Auburn University, AL
Heat stroke: diagnosis and treatment
Quick response, proper cool-down techniques essential to favorable outcome
Melissa Marshall, DVM, Dipl. ACVECC Aug 01, 2008
Heat Stress in Hunting Dogs
by Delores E. Gockowski, DVM