We have all heard the familiar horror stories of owners causing death by leaving their dogs in hot cars. As dog groomers we should also be aware of the owner who has just walked their overweight, excessively haired dog one mile or so to the salon (probably during the hottest part of the day) to wear it out so it’s easier for us to handle!
Heatstroke occurs when the dog’s ability to regulate its body temperature is lost. Heavy-coated, overweight and brachycephalic (squashed nosed) breeds are particular susceptible. A dog regulates body temperature primarily through respiration. When the respiratory tract cannot evacuate heat quickly enough, the body temperature rises. .
Be Aware of the Following:
Dogs eliminate heat through panting, however, if the temperature of the environment is too hot and humid then panting becomes ineffective, for example, with the overuse of cabinet/cage dryers, hot drying areas and dogs with a large coat (that will take longer to dry)
Anxious dogs with an increased muscular effort – ie dogs that struggle or are stressed due to being left at the salon – their body temperature will rise a lot quicker.
The quicker you can recognise and alleviate the symptoms, the less likely there will be long term damage
Signs of Heatstroke
- Panting excessively
- Anxious behaviour
- Very red gums
- Very rapid heart rate
- Wanting to lay down – almost drunk behaviour
- In severe cases, collapse, convulsion and shock
What to do
- Remove the dog from the hot environment and reduce the body temperature immediately. This can be done by immersing the dog in tepid water and then gradually cooling the water, using either a shower spray or hose. Use a fan to increase airflow over the dog, as this aids the cooling process. Avoid ice or extreme cold, as this can constrict the blood vessels and delay the cooling process
- Continue to cool the dog until the breathing starts to settle to normal and seek veterinary advice.
- Do not wet a dog down and return it to an ‘enclosed’ style crate as this will create a steam bath effect.
If the dog that you are preparing to groom is heavy-coated, overweight, brachycephalic, over-exercised or you are concerned about the dog’s welfare in the heat, ensure that you let the owner know that you may need extra time to carry out the groom in order to care for the dog’s welfare whilst in your salon.
Ensure that in the above situation, you allow plenty of time for breaks in a cool area of the salon.
Do not put your client’s dogs or your own reputation at risk. Maybe rebook to either a cooler day, or offer an early morning or an early evening appointment (when the salon is cooler). Discuss all concerns with your clients – they will appreciate that you consider the wellbeing of their animal.
Remember – Heatstroke can be fatal!