During the dog days of summer, dog owners (and especially hunting dog trainers) need to be especially mindful of the potential of heat stroke in their canine companions. Even well conditioned hunting dogs can fall victim to the heat, but owners should pay particularly close attention to out-of-shape or overweight dogs.
Simply, if not respected, heat stroke can be a killer. Other than panting, our hunting partners can do little to protect themselves from the heat when birds are flighted and guns fired. They know only one operational mode, and that’s FULL speed.
The Newshound was reminded of the stark reality of heat stroke in dogs a couple of years ago when a particularly tragic situation occurred during an unseasonably warm pheasant opener in South Dakota. Veterinarians across the region reported treating hundreds of dogs that succumbed to heat stroke in varying degrees. Some suffered seizures and died, while many others experienced irreparable organ and internal damage that prevented them from full recovery.
A dog’s normal body temperature is around 101 degrees F. They begin to show signs of heat stress (a precursor to heat stroke) in the 104- to 105-degree range. When a dog’s temperature reaches around 109 degrees, shock and seizures occur.
Dr. Bryan Ramsey, a Texas vet, hunter and owner of English pointers, told Tyler Morning Telegraph outdoor writer Steve Knight last week that he personally doesn’t start running his dogs until late September, but he understands some will begin conditioning earlier and others will be using dogs during this month’s dove-hunting seasons.
“If you see them overheating, they can melt down in a hurry. Get water on them in a hurry,” Ramsey said.
Other heat stroke prevention tips:
- If a dog exhibits signs of heat stroke–heavy panting, hyperventilation, increased salivation, weakness, confusion or inattention, vomiting or diarrhea–submerge its entire body in cool water. In addition, packing ice around the neck will help reduce body heat.
- A heatstroke victim should be kept in a shaded and cool place and never placed into a hot or unprotected dog box.
- If a dog shows any sign of convulsions or exhaustion, such as retching or heavy panting, a vet should be consulted at once.
- As an alternative to field training, try to train dogs in water on especially hot days, but remember that overheating can occur even in warm, shallow water.
- Simply staying out of the field on hot summer days is the best advice, but when working a dog in the heat, always keep an ice chest full of ice.