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How to Protect Your Assistance Dog Against Hot Weather and Heatstroke

How to Protect Your Assistance Dog Against Hot Weather and Heatstroke

Your service dog is just as susceptible to discomfort from heat and humidity as you are; in fact, if you’re uncomfortable, she is too. She’s also at risk for dehydration and heatstroke (hyperthermia) when temperatures rise and she doesn’t stay hydrated or cool down properly.

Because your assistance dog works and accompanies you outside often, she’s at elevated risk as compared to most pets. Stay alert to her condition and performance—if she’s trying to slow down, there’s a reason—and remember to let her rest and provide drinking water often while you’re out.

10 Hot Weather Safety Tips

  1. Avoid unnecessary activity and work when it’s hot and/or humid. Whenever possible, go out in the morning or evening when it’s somewhat cooler.
  2. While out, try to avoid walking across asphalt, pavement, sand, and other hot surfaces, as they can hurt or burn your dog’s unprotected paw pads.
  3. Check the pavement for heat before taking your service dog for a walk. Place the back of you hand on the service for 10 seconds to confirm it is o.k. If it is too hot for your hand, then it is too hot for your dog’s paws.
  4. Provide unrestrained, constant access to fresh, cool, clean drinking water inside and out (add ice cubes to outdoor water). Read more about your assistance dog’s water needs here.
  5. Canned food is high in water content, so it’s a good source of extra fluids. Replace some of your dog’s kibble with it in the summer. Offer frozen dog treats, too, for cooling down.
  6. Make sure your dog can lie entirely in the shade while she’s outside. Remember, the position of the sun and shade change continuously, so keep tabs on the situation.
  7. Allow your service dog unrestricted access to air conditioned parts of the home; never enclose her in the garage, basement, or other area with uncontrolled temperatures. Also, don’t rely on fans, as they don’t do as much for dogs because they cool down by panting, not sweating.
  8. Don’t put a muzzle on your dog in the heat, as it prevents her from panting and cooling down naturally.
  9. Utilize a pair of dog shoes (boots) to protect your dog’s paws from the burning surfaces.
  10. Watch out for potentially harmful chemicals that become more prevalent when hot weather sets in. Pesticides for lawn care, vehicle coolant, and insect/parasite repellants and treatments are all dangerous if ingested by your dog.

Heatstroke (Hyperthermia) in Dogs

Again, working dogs can be especially vulnerable to hyperthermia. Also, breeds with short snouts, like bulldogs, boxers, pugs, shih tzus, and Pekingese, are at increased risk; these aren’t some of the more common assistance dog breeds, but if you are partnered with one, be extra vigilant about heatstroke prevention and watching for symptoms. Old, young, overweight, and sick dogs are also at heightened risk.

Typical signs and symptoms of heatstroke in dogs include a body temperature over 104 degrees, heavy panting, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, glazed eyes, increased heart rate, excessive salivation, purple or dark red tongue, vomiting or diarrhea (possibly bloody), lethargy, dizziness, loss of coordination, collapsing, seizures, and coma.

If you suspect heatstroke, move your assistance dog to a cool room immediately and bring her cool drinking water or ice cubes. Mist her with cool water and apply cold packs or compresses to her head, neck, chest, abdomen, and feet. While she’s damp, turning a fan on her helps cool her off. Apply a small amount of isopropyl alcohol to her foot pads, too.

Check your service dog’s temperature. The goal is to get it below 103 degrees within 10 to 15 minutes, and you should stop your cooling efforts as soon as you do. Once you’re successful (or if you are unable to do so within 15 minutes at the longest), take your dog to the vet or emergency animal hospital right away. She must be examined and monitored.

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