Dog Heatstroke Survival Guide

18 Jun 2016 | Filed in Dog Health

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I began competing in agility eight years ago with my Chihuahua, Ruben. I was soon hooked, and it wasn’t long before my weekends were planned around whichever agility trial was taking place. I retired Ruben at 7 years old, but around that time my Border Collie, Torque, decided disc-dog competition was his niche. For a period of time, that was the dog sport that occupied my weekends.

When my Pharaoh Hound, Logan, joined the family, I had the opportunity to try dog sports I had not yet experienced. It started out innocently enough with conformation events, but while working on conformation, I decided to try Logan in lure coursing. Logan turned out to be a natural, and has been awarded multiple Best-in-Field titles.

Agility, disc-dog competition, conformation and lure coursing are offered year-round, rain or shine. About a month ago, I experienced a problem I had never encountered. For the first time in almost a decade of competing in dog sports, one of my dogs experienced heatstroke. At a lure-coursing event, Logan became overheated. He’s completely recovered now, with no apparent long-term negative effects, but it was an experience that demonstrated firsthand how quickly this potentially life-threatening condition can arise.

What is heatstroke?

In simple terms, heatstroke occurs when a dog loses its natural ability to regulate its body temperature. Dogs don’t sweat all over their bodies the way humans do. Canine body temperature is primarily regulated through respiration (i.e., panting). If a dog’s respiratory tract cannot evacuate heat quickly enough, heatstroke can occur.

To know whether or not your dog is suffering from heatstroke (as opposed to merely heat exposure), it’s important to know the signs of heatstroke.

A dog’s normal resting temperature is about 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Once a dog’s temperature rises above 105 degrees, physiological changes start to take place, and the dog begins to experience the effects of heatstroke. At 106 to 108 degrees, the dog begins to suffer irreversible damage to the kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract, heart and brain.

If a dog is experiencing heatstroke, you may observe excessive panting; hyperventilation; increased salivation; dry gums that become pale, grayish and tacky; rapid or erratic pulse; weakness; confusion; inattention; vomiting; diarrhea; and possible rectal bleeding. If the dog continues to overheat, breathing efforts become slowed or absent, and finally, seizures or coma can occur.

The amount of damage a dog sustains when stricken with heatstroke depends on the magnitude and duration of the exposure. The longer and more severe the exposure, the worse the damage will be.

What to do:

Pay attention to your dog. Recognizing the symptoms of heatstroke and responding quickly is essential for the best possible outcome.

Get into the shade. If you think your dog is suffering from heatstroke, move it into a shaded area and out of direct sunlight. Apply cool water to the inner thighs and stomach of the dog, where there’s a higher concentration of relatively superficial, large blood vessels. Apply cool water to the foot pads, as well.

Use running water. A faucet or hose is the best way to wet down your dog’s body. Never submerge your dog in water, such as in a pool or tub – this could cool the dog too rapidly, leading to further complications, including cardiac arrest and bloating.

Use cool – not cold – water. Many people make the mistake of using cold water or ice to cool the dog. When faced with a dog suffering from heatstroke, remember that the goal is to cool the dog. Using ice or extremely cold water is actually counterproductive to this process because ice and cold water cause the blood vessels to constrict, which slows blood flow, thus slowing the cooling process.

Don’t cover the dog. One of the keys to successfully cooling your dog is ensuring the water being placed on the dog can evaporate. Never cover an overheated dog with a wet towel or blanket. This inhibits evaporation and creates a sauna effect around your dog’s body. Likewise, don’t wet the dog down and put it into an enclosed area, such as a kennel. Any air flow during the cooling process is helpful in reducing the dog’s body temperature. Sitting with the wet dog in a running car with the air conditioner blowing is an ideal cooling situation.

Keep the dog moving. It’s important to try to encourage your dog to stand or walk slowly as it cools down. This is because the circulating blood tends to pool in certain areas if the dog is lying down, thus preventing the cooled blood from circulating back to the core.

Allow the dog to drink small amounts of water. Cooling the dog is the first priority. Hydration is the next. Don’t allow the dog to gulp water. Instead, offer small amounts of water that’s cool, but not cold. If the dog drinks too much water too rapidly, it could lead to vomiting or bloat.

Avoid giving human performance drinks. Performance beverages designed for humans are not recommended because they are not formulated with the canine’s physiology in mind. If you can’t get an overheated dog to drink water, try offering chicken- or beef-based broths.

9 Things You Need to Know About Your Senior Dog’s Diet Needs

10 Jun 2016 | Filed in Dog Food

Most dog owners eventually face the challenge of properly feeding a geriatric dog. About one-third of all dogs in the United States are 11 or older, and dogs have an average life span of about 14 years, says Kathleen Hefner, DVM, a specialist in nutrition and nutritional counseling at the Animal Hospital of Saddle River in N.J.

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But owners need to know when their dogs have reached senior status and require a dietary adjustment to meet their changing biological needs. Obvious signs include a graying snout and decreased mobility, as well as changes in activity level or interest in toys, games, or people. Owners should start looking for these signs from about age 7 – sooner for larger dogs and later for smaller ones.

Hefner emphasizes, however, that each dog is unique, so owners should consult their veterinarians and rule out any health problems before making dietary changes. All senior dogs are not the same, she says. You have to look at the more subtle things. You’ll want guidance on your individual pet’s needs.

But the majority of aging dogs face some common physical changes that require dietary changes to address them:

Dogs’ appetites can decrease as they age, so if they eat less, a calorie-dense diet can ensure they still get enough nutrients.

Dogs might also eat less because of pain from periodontal disease; more palatable, easier-to-chew food helps ensure Fido doesn’t go hungry.

Phosphorous and sodium can aggravate kidney problems, heart disease, and hypertension. If your dog has these illnesses, look for a diet with less of these two elements.

A sufficient amount of zinc helps keep the skin, coat, and immune system healthy.

Antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E, and beta-carotene, are all believed to fight cancer and slow aging, so owners may want to supplement these if their dogs’ food doesn’t already include sufficient amounts.

Additives for joint health, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, often ease the aches of arthritis by maintaining the healthy cartilage that cushions the bones. Many senior dog foods include these ingredients, also available as supplements.

Aging dogs tend to have more gastrointestinal distress, so a diet with increased fiber can help prevent constipation.

Older dogs still require protein – vital to the body for cell repair and muscle maintenance – but can’t metabolize it as efficiently. They need higher-quality protein with a complete range of essential amino acids.

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and flaxseed oil can help alleviate a dull, dry coat and dry skin, as well as aid immune-system function.

Adoption Requirements for Dogs

6 Jun 2016 | Filed in Dog Adopted

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You want to do the right thing and give a shelter dog a home, so you visit the local shelter and look for the perfect dog. Having spent hours getting to know all the dogs at the shelter, you finally choose one. Now, what does the shelter need from you? Have a question? Get an answer from a Vet now!

General Adoption Requirements

For most people adopting a dog, the process is pretty straightforward. There are several things modern adoption centers and shelters need to learn from you, much of which will be covered in the adoption application. Unless there are special issues to address, most applications ask the same questions. You will be required to either own your own home or, if you rent, produce proof you are allowed to have a pet. You will be asked about previous pet-owning experience, and in some cases you will need to be an experienced dog owner. Many shelters require you have a back yard, but this requirement can be waived if the shelter personnel feel it’s appropriate. Many shelters require you supply contact information for a veterinarian or others who can attest to your suitability to have a dog. Finally, the dog must be for you, not a “surprise” or gift for another, and your spouse, if applicable, must join in the adoption process.

Special Situations: The Dog

In some situations, adoption requirements become a little more stringent. This is particularly true when adopting a breed of dog that requires a lot of exercise. In such cases, you will almost definitely be required to have a fenced-in backyard. If adopting a puppy, many shelters will require you to enroll the pup in a training class; many shelters offer them for free for adopters. Many times, well-meaning folks will adopt a puppy, neglect to teach him basic obedience and manners, and then, when he’s fully grown into an unmanageable adult dog, return him to the shelter, where his chances of being re-adopted are slim. Even if the problem was not his fault, it looks bad on his record to have been returned.

Regulations

Oh yes, those dreaded regulations. There are certain dog breeds for which owners pay dearly when it comes to insurance premiums and homeowner fees. Some homeowner’s associations ban breeds they deem “dangerous,” never taking into account that dogs have unique personalities. Even if you own your home, you may be required to show proof that your homeowner’s association has not passed limitations on the size or breed of dog you may have.

Your homeowner’s insurance company may also have something to say about the breed you choose. If you are considering a pit bull, Rottweiler or mastiff, for instance, you should look into your insurance policy to be sure there are no problems down the road. There have been cases of dogs such as greyhounds and German shepherds being disallowed by insurance policies, so check carefully.

If you rent and are allowed to have pets, be sure you can pay any necessary pet deposits, and don’t select a dog that exceeds the weight limit.

Your Situation

Shelter personnel and rescue groups get to know the dogs in their care very well and are in the best position to gauge whether the dog you have chosen is the right dog for your situation. For example, a nervous little dog who may be a fear-biter is not the best choice for a family with small children. Certain breeds, such as terriers, are usually not adopted to people with cats or pocket pets because of their natural prey drive. An elderly person is not a good match for a strong, 80-pound, adolescent pit bull.

There may also be requirements as to your lifestyle. If you prefer to read a good book while curled up by the fire, an active breed will be miserable with you; get an older, smaller lap dog instead. Don’t take it personally if shelter personnel feel you don’t have the requirements needed to adopt a certain dog; their first priority should always be the dog’s best interest.