Seattle’s hot spell last week was a pleasant little reminder that summer is almost here. Summer means a lot of good things, one of which is camping trips with my family… dogs included, of course.

The gorgeous weather left me unable to resist the temptation to take a break from our busy Seattle lives. So, my husband and I piled our three kids and two dogs, Ruby and Romeo, into the car to get out of the city. We headed to Mountain Loop Highway, but we didn’t otherwise have a plan. Our journey felt overall carefree, although I will say that I periodically got a little bit worried about how our dogs would handle the heat. I kept reminding my husband that we needed to find a hike and camping spot with a swimming lake or river. Ruby and Romeo aren’t yet acclimated to warmer temperatures, and they have pretty limited cooling mechanisms compared to their human hikers.

We ended up finding a perfect camping spot on a river, near the base of the 10 mile trail to Goat Lake. There was plenty of water and shade. Ruby and Romeo had the best weekend ever hiking and wading in the river and Goat Lake’s icy water. We carried plenty of water for our two- and four-legged hikers. During the hike, I continuously checked in on my pups to be sure they weren’t dragging their paws, having a hard time breathing, or showing any other signs of heat exhaustion. They had a blast and it was obvious they’d trade Seattle life for mountain life any day.

Sadly, a few dogs do come into our clinic every spring and summer with heat stroke. We immediately come together as a team, with all hands on deck, to cool and care for these patients, as heat stroke can quickly become life threatening. As the body temperature rises above 104 F, cooling and thermoregulatory mechanisms fail. With further increases in body temperature above 104 F, neurologic, circulatory, urinary and blood clotting systems also start to fail.

It’s important to understand the signs of heat stress and exhaustion in order to prevent progression to heat stroke. Spread the word to keep all of your doggy friends safe in heat.

Signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke include (only some of these signs may be present):

— Seeking out shade and water

— Prolonged panting or loud, laboured breathing

— Dark, red “injected” gums or tongue

— Moving slowly & not keeping up, staggering or collapse

— Barking, pacing, anxious or trying to get out of a parked car

— Vomiting / Diarrhea

— Drooling

— Glazed over or wide, stressed eyes

— Altered mental state

— Fast heart rate or pulse

Heat stroke makes most people think of a panicked dog trapped alone in a hot car. Dogs can get heat stroke while left alone in a car for only a few minutes even during mild temperatures as low as 60-70 F. Cracking the windows in the car will not prevent heat stroke. Even with the windows cracked, the temperature in a car can rise 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. Dogs will start panting to cool down, but they don’t sweet like we do! It’s important to know that heat exhaustion doesn’t only occur in hot cars. It can happen at the park, while confined to a backyard, on a walk, hike, run or during travel by plane. Brachycephalic breeds who already have compromised breathing are especially prone to heat exhaustion. Pugs, French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs and other breeds with brachycephalic syndrome can develop heat stroke from just a short stroll around the block.

If you see a dogs with signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, take these steps immediately:

— Remove the dog from the hot environment

— Offer small amounts of water

— Run cool water over the dog’s entire body. Do not use water that is too cold, as cooling too quickly can be harmful

— Bring your dog to a veterinarian immediately for further care and treatment

Here’s a great read by a veterinary friend and colleague, Know The Facts About Dogs In Hot Cars

Enjoy this weather with your four-legged family as we inch closer to a beautiful, PNW summer!!

Written by Dr. Katie Rob, Columbia City Veterinary Hospital

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