Is Your Dog Overheating?
You may have noticed your dog panting alot this summer. But just because it is hot and your dog is panting doesn't mean he is in trouble on the trail. Aside from a few, mostly useless, sweat glands on her feet your dog doesn't have any sweat glands and must rely exclusively on panting to breathe off excess heat. This is obviously not very efficient and makes your dog more susceptible to heatstroke much quicker than we are in hot summer weather.
Heatstroke is neary always preventable - it's biggest enemy is common sense. Don't plan long, tough hikes in the heat of the day. Leave the big hikes with your older dog for cooler weather. If you are hiking with your dog this summer, don't leave the trailhead without an inexhaustible supply of drinking water. On the trail with your dog - in any weather, but especially in the summer - if he drops behind you, stop and take a break. If you have a short-nosed breed like a Boxer or a double-coated breed like a German Shepherd, heat will be even more of a factor on a hike.
It can be difficult to differentiate between normal heavy panting and the rapid panting that is a sign of heatstroke. If his eyes become glassy or the gums turn bright red, take action immediately. Cool down your dog as fast as possible. Use cool water - icy water can cause too drastic a body temperature change - applied directly or with soaked towels to the head, neck, chest and abdomen. Take you time and sit in the shade awhile - don't rush your dog back on the trail.
Most times heatstroke is an isolated incident and your recovered dog will not have any lasting problems. You may want to take her to the vet for a check-up just to be on the safe side, however.