During the hot, humid summer, heat stress happens quickly. Knowing what to look for, plus taking proper precautions, can help avoid or minimize heat stress in bird dogs. Unlike humans, dogs cannot regulate their body temperature by sweating. Although people have sweat glands throughout their bodies, the only place dogs sweat is around the pads of their paws. Therefore, it’s important to take necessary precautions and take action quickly should heat stress occur.
“Water is the most essential nutrient for sporting dogs,” says Purina Senior Research Nutritionist Arleigh Reynolds, DVM, PhD, DACVN. “Dehydration is dangerous for a dog because it increases his or her heart’s workload, impairs the delivery of nutrients and removal of waste from his or her muscles, and reduces his or her body’s ability to maintain a normal body temperature.”
To tell if your dog is dehydrated in the field, run your hands over the dog’s shoulder blades and tug up his or her skin. In a well-hydrated dog, the skin should quickly snap back down. If it takes a second or two for the tented skin to recess, the dog is 3 to 5 percent dehydrated.
“Be sure your dog always has access to fresh water,” Reynolds advises. “When traveling to events, carry several gallons of water with you as a consistent water source to help hydrate your bird dog, offering water from a squirt bottle every 10 to 15 minutes while working.”
During the hot summer months, it is not unusual for a dog’s food consumption to decrease. As a general rule, dogs need about 7.5 percent fewer calories with each 10-degree rise above the moderate temperatures of spring and fall.
Reynolds recommends feeding a high-quality, complete and balanced diet year-round, such as Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 Formula
. Poor-quality dog food is not a per-calorie savings. “Remember also to adjust the amount fed to keep your dog in proper body condition, meaning the ribs are palpable without excess fat covering,” he adds.
Be Aware of the Signs of Overheating
“Look for any little change in the dog’s attitude and actions, such as rapid breathing, shade-seeking behavior, lack of motivation, and wobbly gait, as signs of heat stress,” says Reynolds. “You know your dog better than anyone. If he or she shows any of these signs, stop and spring into action to make sure the dog isn’t overheating.”
A dog’s temperature is the most telling sign of overheating, so consider carrying a rectal thermometer to track your dog’s temperature. A normal temperature is from 101 to 103 degrees, but after hard work, it could be as high as 107 degrees. As a dog starts to cool down, his or her temperature should drop to below 104 degrees in five minutes.
Know When Your Dog Needs Help
An overheated dog — one whose temperature stays at 107 degrees or higher after several minutes — should receive emergency veterinary care. A mildly overheated dog usually responds rapidly.
“If a dog’s temperature is 107 degrees or higher, immediately get the dog into a cooler, shaded area, give him or her some water, and rub cool — but not ice-cold — water on his or her underside to make sure the temperature comes down. If it doesn’t, get the dog to a veterinarian right away,” Reynolds explains. “Most dogs are good at controlling their body temperature except in stressful situations when their temperature goes past a critical level. Such dogs will never be able to regulate their body temperature as well as before suffering heat stress.”
The most important thing is to keep an eye on your dog, anticipate problems before they occur, and, when in doubt, take his or her temperature.