Heatstroke in dogs can be a real concern as they don't have the same built in cooling system that humans do—sweat glands. For dogs, getting rid of excess heat can be much more of a challenge and the thicker and heavier their coat, the more difficult it becomes. That's why responsible dog owners need to be particularly careful in hot weather and should always provide their dog with a ready water source and plenty of shade.
While a dog's coat can provide important insulation against cold weather, in the heat it can be a hindrance. While some have had good results with trimming their Australian Shepherd's fur in summer, others have said this was a disaster and the fur never grew back the same. If you do decide to try trimming, don't go too short. Shaving an Aussie's fur too short will leave their skin vulnerable to the blaring rays of the sun. Another option is to thin the coat a bit with tools like the Rubold Dematting Tool or the FURminator deShedding Tool which you can get on Amazon.
Though dogs do have some sweat glands in the pads of their feet, they primarily dissipate heat by panting. If a dog gets too hot, he won't be able to displace enough heat this way and his body temperature can quickly rise to dangerous levels... this is where heatstroke can occur.
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Knowing how to prevent and treat heatstroke in dogs, should symptoms arise, will help keep your Aussie safe while having fun in the sun.
Though heatstroke in dogs can be caused by hot weather in general, usually it is precipitated by careless behavior on the owner's part such as leaving him locked in a car with the windows closed or not providing access to shade while outdoors. Because a dog's body is much smaller than a human's it doesn't take long for conditions such as these to lead to dangerous overheating.
This can be particularly true for working breeds such as the Australian Shepherd, who love to work and live to please their master. Australian Shepherds will quite literally keep working until you tell them not to; they may not just stop on their own. In hot weather, it is especially important for you to be aware of any signs of heatstroke and to take action to prevent overheating.
So what exactly are the indications of heatstroke in dogs? The primary sign is excessive panting. You should also be on the lookout for any signs that your dog is experiencing discomfort. If your dog does become overheated, the quicker you act to alleviate the symptoms the better off he'll be. You'll need to act fast to lower his body temperature and may need to get him to the vet to have him checked for any other heat related issues.
The best way to lower a dog's body temperature is to either hose him down or set him in a bathtub and run cool water over him. Never use water that is too cold, as that can be a shock to the system. You'll also want to vigorously massage his legs to help stimulate circulation and avoid shock. You can also apply an ice pack, or even a package of frozen vegetables, to his neck to help cool him down and let him drink as much cool water as he wants.
You should take his temperature every five minutes and continue these cooling steps until it reaches 103 F (39.4 C). Then continue checking to make sure they get to the normal range for body temperature for dogs which is 101 to 102.5 F (38.3 to 39.2 C). Even if the dog seems better, it's always wise to see a vet to have a more comprehensive exam done for other issues that can be caused by heatstroke in dogs, including neurological problems, kidney failure, and abnormal blood clotting. If any of these are present the vet will be able to provide the proper treatment.
Remember, you are your dog's best protection against heatstroke. Always make sure your dog has access to shade, plenty of cool water and is never left inside a closed car. Using a dog cooling collar or dog cooling pad can also help avoid overheating in the first place.
While Australian Shepherds and other working breeds may be devoted to their jobs, make sure they aren't working too hard when the weather gets hot. When it comes to your four-legged friend, safety should always come first!
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