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The dog days of summer and early fall don’t have to be unbearable. Practicing healthy hydration and understanding the signs of heat stress and how to deal with it can help reduce the dangers of overheating in your active, hardworking bird dog.
Keep in mind that dehydration can occur rapidly. A dog that exercises 30 to 60 minutes at 70 to 80 degrees can experience mild to moderate dehydration, depending on the activity and the intensity. Among the effects of dehydration is an impaired ability to maintain a normal body temperature.
The most common risk to a bird dog is an excessive increase in body temperature causing heat stress. The level of crisis ranges from simply making a dog uncomfortable to a life-threatening situation.
Most dogs are very good at controlling their body temperature — until their temperature goes past a critical level. When this happens, even after the dog’s temperature is lowered back into the safe range, the dog may experience permanent inability to regulate its body temperature as well as before overheating.
Here are some tips to help you take the heat out of summer and early fall season outings:
• Monitor your bird dog for signs of heat stress and dehydration
• To slow dehydration, a dog should be given small amounts of water every 15 to 20 minutes when working and especially during events lasting longer than 60 minutes
• Try cooling your dog by periodically squirting him or her with a spray bottle or mister — the wetness on the coat has a cooling effect as it evaporates
• Always give an overheated dog cool water rather than ice water, which could cause him or her to cool down too quickly; ice water can cause blood vessels to constrict, which slows blood flow to the brain and the cooling process
• To boost water consumption, try baiting water with low-sodium chicken broth to encourage drinking or try mixing a few food kibbles with water and adding chicken broth
• Use running water — a faucet or hose — to wet down a dog’s body; avoid submerging your dog in water, as warm water can impede the cooling process and cold water can cause him or her to cool too rapidly and lead to other problems
• After working, make sure your dog has access to water, but wait until his or her panting slows down before allowing your dog to drink a large volume of water
If you suspect your dog has overheated, time is of the essence. At the first signs, stop the activity and contact your veterinarian while taking action to enhance the cooling process. Give your dog some water and rub cool water on his or her abdomen. While transporting your dog to the veterinary clinic, position him or her in front of an air vent and allow cool air to move around his or her body. It’s important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible, because the longer the dog is exposed to high temperatures, the more damage you can cause.